As reported in a previous post, a real-life maid filed a lawsuit against the author of “The Help” that accused the author of stealing the maid’s likeness for her best-selling novel, which has recently been made into a popular movie. Ablene Cooper contended in her lawsuit that Kathryn Stockett stole her likeness for her character Aibileen Clark. Other similarities included that both Abie’s had a gold tooth, took care of a boy and a girl, and had a son who died.
On Tuesday, a judge tossed out the lawsuit. He said that it may be true that Cooper had a claim that her likeness was used without permission, but she had filed her lawsuit too late. To meet the statute of limitations, the lawsuit had to have been filed within a one-year window after the book was published.
The book was published in February 2009 and the author mailed Cooper a copy a month before it was published, in January 2009. Cooper did not read the book, however, until more than a year later, in 2010. She sued last February. Her lawyer argued that the clock on statute of limitations should not have started ticking until Cooper read the book.
Attorneys for Stockett countered that the statute of limitations began when the book was published and Cooper had the opportunity to read the book since it was given to her.
Cooper works as a maid for Stockett’s brother’s family. Stockett had met Cooper but said that it was only briefly and the character was more based on a housekeeper that had worked for her own family.
Cooper’s attorney pointed to an interview during which Stockett said that she had based the characters on people she knew. Cooper may choose to appeal, but they haven’t yet decided on the next course of action.
Source: Clarion Ledger, “‘The Help’ lawsuit tossed out,” Jerry Mitchell, Aug. 16, 2011