Sample Complaint: Trump v. Maher

Donald Trump sues Bill Maher

During Barack Obama’s 1st term and the 2012 presidential election, Donald Trump repeatedly questioned the President’s citizenship. Even though he obtained a copy of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, Mr. Trump appeared to be unsatisfied with its authenticity. Meanwhile, liberal comedian and political talk show host Bill Maher began questioning Donald Trump’s lineage, graphically pointing out similarities in The Don’s appearance with that of … an orangutan.

Bill Maher compares Donald Trump to an orangutan

During an interview with Jay Leno, Mr. Maher stated that he’d give $5 Million to Mr. Trump to give to charity if Mr. Trump would prove that he is not the son of an orangutan. Subsequently, Mr. Trump’s attorney mailed a copy of what is purported to be Mr. Trump’s birth certificate to Mr. Maher. The birth certificate shows that Mr. Trump was born on June 14, 1946 and is the son of Mary MacLeod and Fred Trump. Predictably, as Mr. Trump did with President Obama’s birth certificate, Bill Maher questioned and poked fun at Mr. Trump’s birth certificate.

Donald Trump birth certificateSo here is the birth certificate that launched a lawsuit. In this case, Donald Trump vs. Bill Maher, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC 499537, alleging breach of contract arising from an alleged joke suggesting that one of The Don’s parents was … an orangutan. Join the fun: View the pictures – do you see a resemblance? Download your copy of the Complaint and share your legal analysis. Is this a contract or tort … or should it be thrown out of court?

What Happens When You Sue a Talk Show Personality?

Mr. Trump, the plaintiff, is represented by New York attorney Scott Balber of the firm Cooley LLP. Lest you should think this whole thing will die down anytime soon, Mr. Maher aired a photo of his impression of Mr. Trump’s attorney.

Bill Maher's impression of Donald Trump's lawyer

The Complaint

Below, for your legal analysis, is a copy of the Complaint and its attachments as filed on February 4, 2013. The question presented is, whether a contract was formed when Bill Maher (a comedian and talk show host) said (or read from a teleprompter), on the topic of Mrs. Trump having sex with an orangutan resulting in Mr. Trump (also a public figure and, some might think, also a comedian), “… unless he comes up with proof, I’m willing to offer 5 million dollars to Donald Trump …”. Mr. Maher says that the statement and subject of the lawsuit is nothing more than … what’s known in the comedy business as … a joke!

The Complaint is noteworthy because it pursues a contract theory, rather than tort for alleged libel or slander (where the public-figure defense would surely apply – which is why Mr. Maher suggests that Mr. Trump, “Suck it up, like everybody else!”) However, the whole thing may not be as unique as its promoters would have us believe, because ridiculously boastful or exaggerated promises have been found to be unenforceable as contracts in the past. So take it for its entertainment value. Although fun, this won’t be a case of first impression. Here is the link to download your copy of the Complaint and its attachments, as filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Trump v. Maher

The show is an HBO original series. Look for the February 8, 2013 episode of Real Time With Bill Maher.