Annie Leibovitz will have an extra month to cope with her current financial situation, thanks to a recent court ruling. But she could be staring down another set of legal woes.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried ruled on Wednesday that the celebrity photographer has until October 1, 2009 to respond to a lawsuit that Art Capital Group filed. The art-focused bank has accused Leibovitz of failing to repay the $24 million she borrowed from it.
The decision does not change Leibovitz's obligation to pay back Art Capital Group by September 8, and a report by Bloomberg News suggests that even if she misses this deadline, Art Capital Group may not declare a default, as it could push her into bankruptcy, which could complicate repayment. The photographer's attorney, Steven Brawer of Lowenstein Sandler PC, wouldn't reveal whether settlement talks are being conducted.
If the loan is not repaid, the photographer could lose her three West Village brownstones and a property in Rhinebeck, New York – which together could be worth up to $40 million. Also, her photographs could be taken; Art Capital Group estimates that they could be worth more than $50 million.
Meanwhile, Italian photographer Paolo Pizzetti filed a suit against Leibovitz in U.S. District Court in New York, claiming that she had taken his photos and used them in an advertising campaign. According to Pizzetti, he was hired by Leibovitz to take photographs of scouting locations for advertisements to be run by Italian coffee company LavAzza in April 2008. The Trevi Fountain in Rome and Plaza San Marco in Venice were among the sites he shot. The photos were allegedly used in a LavAzza calendar of Leibovitz photography released last October – including the cover.
Pizzetti cites weather conditions, cloud formations and the appearance of a particular bird in the photographs according to the complaint filed. He continues that Leibovitz never said she planned to use his photographs and never sought permission to do so. Pizzetti is looking for a court order requiring that Leibovitz cease using the images, as well as pay $150,000 per infringement and other unspecified damages. A spokesman for Leibovitz has no comment, as he hasn't seen the filing yet.