Judge Dismisses $50 Million Ramapough Lawsuit Against Film 'Out of the Furnace'

According to reports, the judge citing the 'of and concerning' clause when tossing the suit.

Credit: Relativity Media.
Credit: Relativity Media.

A federal judge has tossed the $50 million lawsuit 17 members of the Ramapough Lenape tribe filed against the creators of the film Out of the Furnace, nj.com reported.

The suit claimed that the movie depicted the Ramapough people in a negative light, and defamed the group's character. The lawsuit cited names used in the film that are common among tribe members, notably DeGroat, which was the last name of the villain character, a "hillbilly" leader of a crime ring in the Ramapo Mountains, played by Woody Harrelson.

According to the report, Newark Federal Court Judge William Walls said that suit did not meet the 'of and concerning' clause. 

"Plaintiffs plead only that some of them share the same surname, but not first name, as two of the characters in the movie. They also contend that they are Ramapoughs, as are the characters in the movie, and that many of them live in the same region as the Ramapoughs. These allegations do not suffice to show that the alleged defamatory statements are ‘of and concerning’ these plaintiffs," Walls said in the nj.com report.

Relativity Media, the film's distributor, filed for a dismissal of the suit, saying that letting it go on would limit free speech, the report said. Company reps said the dismissal was a "victory for all filmmakers and artists," the report said. 

The company has maintained that the story presented in the film - which follows Christian Bale as he attempts to free his brother, played by Casey Affleck, from the crime ring run by Harrelson's character - is fictional, and not based on anyone in particular. 

The plaintiffs' attorney, Lydia Cotz, told NorthJersey.com that she was disappointed by the ruling, but glad that the suit brought some awareness to her clients' feelings about the film. She also said they are undecided on whether or not they will appeal the decision, the report said.

When it was released last year, the film Out of the Furnace caused a large stir locally. The Chief of the Ramapough tribe held a press conference with Mahwah's Mayor and school Superintendent questioning the intent of the film and its connection to the greater Mahwah community. 

Hank May 27, 2014 at 09:45 AM
Many years ago the lost tribe of the Rama-polski's settled in Mahwah. We get no recognition or respect. It's a shame.
Ramapough Indian Concerned May 27, 2014 at 06:56 PM
Hank you are Ramapough?
Ramapough Indian Concerned May 27, 2014 at 07:12 PM
I feel it's important to let the public and the curious minds know We Ramapough did not wake up and say " lets play Indian". Our culture, heritage and genealogy has been passed down from generation to generation. Perpetuating the JW theory, or the Hessian soldier theory plays into the stereotype of the ill informed And those who want to perpetuate doubt of our ancestry! We are Indians that live and work in Mahwah, Hillburn and Ringwood and the surrounding areas. We are here to stay, and will one day get the recognition we deserve! Be proud Mahwah! Be proud Ringwood! You should also know Mahwah Has passed a resolution recognizing us and dedicating a Ramapough Indian day! Honor It!!!!
Hank May 27, 2014 at 07:16 PM
No, we are part of the Rama-polski's. There are few remnants of our culture left in Mahwah. But some of us who are left gather together on our sacred ground (the woods at the end of Catherine ave by the cement pipe)) and dance the Rama-polka. Aloha
Brandon Schwartz June 17, 2014 at 10:41 AM
To me, from a business law perspective, while 'of and concerning' is not the right way to fight the situation; this should be 'libel' because it is defamation in film. Nevertheless, the making of this movie is quite stereotypical and the ruining of reputation.


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