Breach of Contract Denied in Reality TV Case

A recent appeals court case illustrates the unhappy results that can come when naiveté and reality TV clash. A man sued the CBC reality show Dragon’s Den for breach of contract and more, including “gross and reckless negligence, intentional misconduct, malice and bad faith” when he was unhappy with the way he was portrayed on the show.

In the show, contestants pitch an idea for a business to a group of real life investors who may take on and fund the proposal if they like it. That all sounds good. But – it’s also showbiz and part of the show’s entertainment value lies, not to put too fine a point on it, in poking fun at the less successful contestants.

Marc Ribeiro was one such unlucky contestant and in his initial suit, he alleged that his proposal was altered and a voiceover added to his on-air pitch to make his idea and him look bad. Ribeiro and his company MHR Board Game Design Inc. sued the CBC alleging breach of contract, defamation, negligence and injurious falsehood.

Both the original and appellate judges, however, found against him because he had signed a lengthy and comprehensive release, one where the wording was unambiguous and where he had effectively signed away his right to sue for the damages he claimed. In part, it read:

I understand that I may reveal, and other parties may reveal, information about me that is of a personal, private, embarrassing or unfavourable nature, which information may be factual and/or fictional. I further understand that my appearance, depiction and/or portrayal in the Program may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavourable nature which may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation…

Know Your Contract

It seems likely that Mr. Ribeiro either didn’t fully read or didn’t fully understand the terms of the contract he’d signed with the television show and its producers. He may have been under the assumption that his appearance on the show would be edited in a way that was to his liking and that he had the right of refusal when it came to what images or depictions of him would be shown. Clearly, if that was the case, he was wrong.

  • Make sure you’re absolutely clear on all aspects of any contract you sign, whether it’s a sales agreement, lease or employment contract – even that fine print.
  • The best time to get advice on any contract – employment or other – is before you sign on the dotted line.

Get the Legal Representation You Need

Employment contracts or contracts of any kind can get complicated and you may not foresee the consequences of specific clauses.  Know your rights. Contact the breach of contract lawyers at Petrillo Law today by calling (905) 949-9433 and let us use our expertise to help you make the right decisions.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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