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Judge throws out 'Ramapough' Lawsuit against 'Out of the Furnace' filmmakers

The “Ramapough Lunaape Nation Tribe” is not recognized by the federal government as an American Indian Tribe in the United States. They are only recognized by the states of New Jersey & New York. The film called, “Out of the Furnace” which stars Christian Bale & Woody Harrelson was released into US theaters on Dec. 6, 2013. By the end of that month, 17 members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation sued the film's producers for defamation of character asking for more than $150,000 in damages.

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Relativity Media

Out of the Furnace” follows two brothers who live in a small mill town near the steep mountains of New Jersy (Location of the Ramampough Nation). Russell Baze finds out that his younger brother Rodney is part of a bare-knuckle fight club run by a ruthless organizer name Harlen DeGroat (He lives in those mountains). When Rodney is murdered, Russell tries to infiltrate this fight club to seek his brother's killer. It is a fictional film based on no tribal person(s) in particular.

According to the “Hollywood Reporter”, producers asked for a dismissal motion of the lawsuit & U.S. district court Judge named William Walls granted that motion. He states that, “It is plain that the 'of and concerning' requirement is not met in this case. - 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."

This means that the “Degroat & Van Dunk” last names used in “Out of the Furnace” are not directly aimed at any specific Ramapough person or persons. Judge Walls also dismissed the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. In the lawsuit, the 17 Ramapough plantiffs say, “The community is depicted as lawless, drug- addicted, impoverished and violent; and the members appear to be of some sort of racially mixed heritage.”

It goes onto say that it, “puts Plaintiffs, and their family members, in a false light, and has caused them shame, embarrassment and humiliation. Their children have suffered teasing and harassment in school as a result of this. The connection between the ethnic slur of ‘Jackson Whites,’ with the location of the Ramapo Mountains of New Jersey - with a Bergen County Police patrol car - with the surnames ‘DeGroat’ and ‘Van Dunk,’ is too specific to the Ramapough plaintiffs to be chance, coincidence or happenstance.”

A spokesperson for “Relativity Media” gave a statement on the judge's dismissal of the lawsuit. "We are pleased with the New Jersey Federal Court's decision today to dismiss the complaint filed by members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation concerning the film 'Out of the Furnace.' As we have said all along, the picture is not based upon any particular person or group of people, and the Court agreed with us on this point. We are satisfied that the Court has upheld the right of free speech in the context of this purely fictional film."

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