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De Niro battles film insurer over cancer diagnosis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Four years after going public with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, actor Robert De Niro is waging a courtroom battle against the insurance carrier for a Hollywood film that was delayed by his illness.

File photo of actor and director Robert De Niro arriving to attend a media day before the start of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York April 22, 2007. Four years after going public with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, De Niro is waging a courtroom battle against the insurance carrier for a Hollywood film that was delayed by his illness. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

De Niro filed a motion on Friday seeking to dismiss a $1.8 million lawsuit brought last year by the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., which claims he misrepresented his health status to them days before shooting was scheduled to start.

The $1.8 million figure is the amount Fireman’s Fund reimbursed filmmakers under its policy for the cost of delayed production on the movie “Hide and Seek,” during De Niro’s cancer treatment, according to court documents.

Fireman’s Fund in turn sued the 63-year-old Oscar winner for fraud, saying he misled the insurance company by failing to disclose at the time he signed a health certificate on October 13, 2003, that he had just undergone a prostate biopsy.

De Niro has acknowledged getting a biopsy on October 10, 2003, three days before signing the form. But he says he received no diagnosis until October 15, and was therefore truthful when he indicated that he had never been “diagnosed with” or “treated for” a prostate disorder.

But Fireman’s Fund said De Niro’s knowledge that he had undergone the biopsy constituted information he knew “might alter or otherwise conflict” the statements he attested to when he signed the certificate.

“Mr. De Niro failed to fully disclose information which was critical to our decision to offer insurance coverage,” the insurance company said in a statement on Monday. “As a result, the film had to be postponed for four months, at significant cost to the motion picture production company.”

De Niro’s lawyer, Robyn Crowther, denied that her client sought to conceal his illness or misrepresent his health status, saying the actor had assumed when he underwent the biopsy that the results would be negative.

“One day you don’t have cancer, and the next day you get diagnosed and you do, and this happened to be in the middle of those couple of days,” Crowther, told Reuters on Monday.

De Niro, who has been filming in New York this week, revealed his illness publicly just days after his diagnosis in 2003, saying the condition was detected at an early stage and that he was expected to make a full recovery.

He completed his cancer treatment and returned to work in 2004 on “Hide and Seek,” which was released the following year by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp. Ltd.. The film went on to gross more than $122 million at the box office worldwide.

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