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A New York lawyer who claims she had the original idea for the box-office hit “Bringing Down the House” filed a $15 million copyright lawsuit Friday against star Queen Latifah and the movie’s other producers. Marie Flaherty claims the movie is a rip-off of “Amoral Dilemma,” a screenplay she wrote several years ago about a lawyer who meets a prisoner online, only to have the prisoner wreak havoc in his life. “Bringing Down the House,” a comedy starring Latifah and Steve Martin, is about a prisoner who meets a lawyer in a chat room, then weasels her way into his life in hopes he can exonerate her. The movie has been atop the box-office charts since it was released earlier this month, raking in $83.3 million through last weekend. Flaherty claims Boston attorney George N. Tobia Jr. agreed to represent her in 1999 as she tried to sell “Amoral Dilemma.” Just a few months later, she says, Tobia called her to say he and a family friend, screenwriter Jason Filardi, had sold a script — “Jailbabe.com,” the screenplay that eventually became “Bringing Down the House.” Flaherty confronted Tobia about the similarities, and he told her repeatedly that Filardi’s script was a comedy, while hers was a drama, she argues in the lawsuit. Tobia did not immediately return a call for comment. The copyright infringement lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks a minimum of $15 million — but Flaherty points out the court could award her more considering the movie’s hefty gross. The lawsuit names as defendants Tobia, Filardi and the movie’s producers — including Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens. Latifah spokeswoman Amanda Silverman did not immediately have a comment. Hyde Park Entertainment, which produced the film, and Walt Disney Co., which distributed it, also are listed as co-defendants. Flaherty, an attorney who plans to represent herself, did not immediately return a call for comment. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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