Disney Asks Ninth Circuit For More Time In Appealing $320 Million 'Millionaire' Verdict (Exclusive)

Last year, a California jury awarded Celador International a whopping $270 million from The Walt Disney Co. in a profit dispute over the hit game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit, but neither party is in a rush to get to a final answer.

On Monday, Disney asked the appeals court for more time to submit its brief outlining arguments why the jury verdict should be overturned.

The studio's lawyers say they've been in the midst of highly complicated mediation in the wake of the verdict last July and are close to agreeing on a schedule with Celador's lawyers.

The case took six years to get to trial, thanks to much legal wrangling. In dispute was whether Disney-owned ABC and Buena Vista Television violated a complex deal to produce and distribute Millionaire in North America by brokering sweetheart deals among themselves that cheated Celador out of millions of dollars in profits. The trial culminated in a $270 million win for Celador -- Disney points out it was one of the five largest jury awards last year -- which ballooned to $320 million in pre-judgement interest.

Disney says the 3,000 page trial transcript, plus several thousand more pages of other proceedings, "raises an unusually large number of legal issues" that will take time to sort.

Disney has hired a big legal gun for this fight. Joining its team from the Sheppard Mullin firm in the appeal is Seth Waxman, the former solicitor general of the United States, who in recent months has argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and also submitted a brief before the high court arguing that it shouldn't review a 2nd Circuit decision involving the FCC's questionable indecency authority. Waxman is quite busy these days, and he brings that to the Ninth Circuit's attention in arguing for an extension.

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner

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