LOS ANGELES (CN) – Television game-show contestants claim in court that a “trick question” cost them their shot at winning $1 million on Fox’s “Million Dollar Money Drop.”
In their Superior Court lawsuit, Andrew and Patricia Murray say producers “sought them out” to appear on the show, because Andrew had appeared on another game show and was considered a “valuable game show contestant.”
To play “Million Dollar Money Drop,” contestants are given $1 million, which they must then wager on a series of seven questions. With each question, they place their money on a trapdoor corresponding to the correct answer. If they’re unsure of the answer, they can split their money between answers. Money placed on incorrect answers disappears when the trapdoors open. Whatever money is left at the end of the seven questions is their prize money.
The Murrays say they were repeatedly assured before taping “that there would be no deceptive, subjective or trick questions and that they should ‘go for it’ on each question if they knew the answer.” They claim they were told this “as an inducement to play aggressively for better television.”
But they say they encountered a trick question on their sixth question, which asked: “According to the Data Security Firm IMPERVA, what is the most common computer password?”
The possible answers were “Password,” “123456” or “I Love You.”
“Plaintiffs decided, based on their personal knowledge of surveys and articles, having read numerous studies on the internet and other media that ‘Password’ was most commonly regarded as the most common password, to wager all their money on that answer,” the lawsuit states.
The Murrays claim they briefly debated splitting their remaining $580,000 between “Password” and “123456,” but ultimately bet it all on “Password.”
“They were deemed wrong and lost the entire $580,000,” the complaint states.
IMPERVA’s assertion that 123456 is the most common password was based on the analysis of a hacking incident involving the website Rockyou.com, according to the lawsuit.
“[T]he question tricked the plaintiffs into thinking it was asking for the most common password when instead it is asking for what IMPERVA found was the most common password on Rockyou.com, a site never mentioned in the question,” the Murrays claim.
“Defendants selected a source that conflicted with the majority of ‘most common password’ surveys at that time yet presented the question as if it was asking for general knowledge.
“If plaintiffs had known that the question was pertaining to a random, single incident relating to the obscure website ‘Rockyou.com’ they would have hedged their bets and played differently,” the lawsuit states.
The Murrays are suing despite having signed a release that they claim is “unconsionable” and “obscene,” because it tried to strip them of any legal recourse. The contract allows producers to avoid paying a winning contestant by simply not airing the episode, and bars contestants from discussing the release with anyone, including attorneys, the Murrays say.
They want Endemol USA, Fox Broadcasting Co., Brigadier Productions and Apploff Entertainment to pay them $580,000, plus punitive damages, for breach of contract, misrepresentation, negligence per se and common law fraud.
Not only did the couple lose the $580,000, but they were also “subjected to the embarrassment of losing such a large sum on national television,” the lawsuit states.
The Murrays appeared on the game show in December 2010. The show, based on the British series “The Million Pound Drop Live,” was canceled after one season.
Plaintiffs are represented by John Roberts of Ball & Roberts in Pasadena.
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