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JUL
27
2 YEARS

DMV Asks Court to Trim Ashton Kutcher Lawsuit

Katalyst Media's $1.44 million breach of contract suit draws a response from California's bureaucratic agency.

FILM: Ashton Kutcher

"You didn't properly complete the paperwork" is probably a line that is uttered around the offices at California's Department of Motor Vehicles many times each day.

It's also essentially the same argument the DMV is using in attempting to knock down a lawsuit by Katalyst Media, the production company run by Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg, for backing out of a deal to participate in a reality series based on DMV employees.

The DMV is notoriously press-shy when it comes to controversy, but after being sued by Katalyst last month, it had no choice but to go public with a response to Katalyst's $1.44 million claims of breach of contract and promissory estoppel.

In a demurrer (motion to dismiss) filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, the DMV acknowledges that in early 2010, it was involved in negotiations with the plaintiffs for a reality TV show about the everyday operations of a DMV field office. It also confirms that on June 8, 2010, it sent a letter to the production company stating that the DMV would work with Katalyst in producing the show and that "pre-production work, such as contract negotiations, casting and office scouting may commence immediately."

But the DMV stops short of saying that all the contractual work for a new show was completed.

The agency points to the signed location agreement. As to which DMV field office would be filmed, it says "To be determined." As to the period of time that the producers would have access to the facilities, it says "Summer/Fall 2011 (exact dates to be determined)."

The DMV also says the agreement required producers to obtain a film permit, something that Katalyst, which has produced the reality series Punk'd, Beauty and the Geek and True Beauty, didn't allege was obtained in its lawsuit.

Six weeks after the location agreement was signed, the DMV says it notified Kutcher's company that it would not proceed with the show.

Now, its official reaction to the Kutcher lawsuit is that "the Location Agreement is too uncertain to be enforced because its essential terms, the identity of the DMV field [office] to which plaintiffs would be given access and the specific dates on which access would be permitted, were never agreed to by the Parties. Plaintiffs have no contract with the DMV."

The DMV is being represented by the state's deputy attorney general Paul Epstein. In the demurrer, the DMV is seeking to dismiss the part of the lawsuit that claims breach of contract.

Michael Weinsten, an attorney at Lavely & Singer representing Katalyst, says he's not impressed with the DMV's position. "It is an absurd position for the DMV to claim this contract is not enforceable, particularly when they themselves announced the deal to the media when it was done."

Email: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner