11:25am PT by Eriq Gardner
CBS Settling 'Hawaii Five-O' Lawsuit on Eve of Trial
George Litto's $100 million lawsuit over CBS' reboot of Hawaii Five-0 is being settled.
The parties were before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge this week during the first phase of a trial when CBS attorney James Curry informed the court that the matter had been resolved. The parties are said to be finalizing a deal. Attorneys in the matter declined comment.
Litto was the agent of Hawaii Five-0 creator Leonard Freeman, who passed away in 1974. At that time, Freeman's widow, Rose, represented by Litto, renegotiated a deal with CBS giving the network the right to produce the show in the future and shifting responsibility for production from Freeman's company to CBS. In return, CBS gave Freeman a substantial stake in the show and a sweetheart arrangement in which it wouldn't be allowed to recoup production overages.
After the original incarnation of Hawaii Five-0 went off the air in 1980, a dispute then erupted between CBS on one hand and Litto and Rose Freeman on the other over who held separated rights. At stake was a possible movie version.
In the mid-1990s during the course of the battle, Litto and Freeman entered into an agreement with each other where they would team up to fight over rights and split proceeds from future productions 50-50. The first phase of the trial beginning this week was to explore an interpretation of this deal and also its validity. Freeman's side asserted that Litto had taken advantage of the widow and abandoned the joint company. Litto filed his lawsuit six weeks after Rose Freeman died.
The larger aspect of the case dealt with the 2010 arrangement that CBS made with the Freeman estate on the present reboot of the hit CBS crime drama.
Litto alleged that he was cut out of the deal, and that CBS had no right to unilaterally make the arrangement having knowledge of the 1990s operating agreement between Rose Freeman and Litto. The former agent further alleged that the effect of the arrangement nullified the benefits of the 1974 agreement.
At first, Litto demanded that CBS' 2010 deal be rescinded. The judge wouldn't have that, dismissing CBS from the lawsuit and ruling that "to restore the consideration would essentially require CBS to 'un-make' or, in the alternative, pull what has become a very popular television series." So Litto's attorney asked for reconsideration on the grounds that a successful outcome in the lawsuit would just require CBS "to adjust the payments to conform to the Existing Hawaii Five-0 Deal by paying considerably less in upfront episodic fees and potentially paying more in backend fees."
In other words, had Litto prevailed, Hawaii Five-0 would become significantly less profitable for CBS. A judge agreed that Litto could pursue this and dragged CBS back into the case as a defendant.
Litto also pursued millions of dollars from the Freeman trustees. In response, Litto faced counterclaims for allegedly attempting to exploit a "forty year Machiavellian scheme" to "take advantage of Rose by transforming his relationship with her from talent agent to possible producer, to partner, to having, according to him, total control over Hawaii Five-0."
Alas, the dispute now appears to be drawing to a conclusion. Terms aren't known but it's likely to be a deal primarily between Litto and Freeman with CBS as a beneficiary of the release of claims. Litto is represented by Henry Gradstein. Michael Plonsker is representing the Freeman parties.