A woman who claims Oprah Winfrey’s production company stole the idea for Oprah’s Big Give is appealing the dismissal of her lawsuit, according to a report, but a lawyer for Harpo has disputed parts of the story’s accuracy–including the story’s claim that the lawsuit has impacted a book deal related to the show.
The New York Daily News’ Rush & Molly reported that “Darlene Tracy, a mother of four with no experience in TV producing, claims that, way back in February 2005, she hatched the concept for a reality show called ‘The Philanthropist,’ in which contestants are challenged to help the needy.” She “claims she sent her pitch to Ellen Rakieten, executive producer of Winfrey’s talk show, and that Rakieten and another producer, Jennifer Thornton, wrote back to ask for more details. Tracy contends she shipped off a fine-tuned business proposal on March 1, 2005. Four months later, Thornton allegedly told Tracy that Oprah’s company, Harpo Productions, was going to pass.”
According to the paper, “Judge Rya Zobel dismissed Tracy’s action, without an opinion. Tracy has since hired a lawyer and filed an appeal that documents her contact with Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and sets forth similarities between ‘The Philanthropist’ and ‘Big Give.’”
The paper also reports that “Winfrey and Rakieten have been shopping a companion ‘Big Give’ book” to “Simon & Schuster — but the prospect of having Tracy name the house in her suit has chilled the deal.” In a statement, Harpo productions lawyer Chip Babcock said “the Daily News’ allegation that Harpo has been pursuing a book deal based on ‘Oprah’s Big Give’ and that Simon & Schuster was the prospective publisher until the pending lawsuit ‘chilled the deal’ is false. In fact there was no deal and there was — and is — no book.”
In addition, the lawyer said the newspaper “failed to report the story accurately,” and said that “her lawsuit against Harpo and ABC was dismissed on the merits by the U.S. District Court in Boston on March 14, 2007. The Court rejected all of Ms. Tracy’s claims. The Court also dismissed Oprah Winfrey as a defendant because it determined the Court had no jurisdiction over her.” In addition, he said that “the New York Daily News article alleged that the plaintiff has since hired a lawyer and filed an appeal. In fact, Ms. Tracy is pursuing an appeal to the Federal Appellate Court on her own, without being represented by counsel, after her lawyer withdrew from the case.”