April 19, 2011 12:55pm PT by Alex Ben Block
'Happy Days' Cast Sues CBS, Paramount for $10 Million
The cast of the classic sitcom Happy Days isn’t too happy with CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures, charging in a lawsuit that they have not been paid for their share of years of home video releases and licensed merchandise that used their images and voices. The plaintiffs say the damages are at least $10 million plus interest and possibly punitive damages.
The suit was brought Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Anson Williams, Marion Ross, Don Most, Erin Moran and Patricia Bosley, who is executor of the will of her husband the late Tom Bosley.
Ron Howard and Henry Winkler, also stars of the iconic show, are not part of the suit.
“Happy Days epitomizes what is best in America,” says the opening salvo of the lawsuit, adding that the actions by CBS and Paramount “epitomize what is worst in corporate America, exemplifying the worst business practices.”
The show originally ran on ABC from 1974 until 1984 and has been a staple in TV syndication and on various cable outlets since. It was originally produced by Paramount, but after a corporate split in 2005 became part of CBS Studios.
The suit apparently was triggered after a former cast member saw their images on slot machines at a casino. They had also watched as the show was repackaged for at least four DVD release in box sets beginning in 2004, again with their pictures on the boxes and in show photographs used inside, according to the complaint.
The suit says CBS continues to market the brand to merchandisers, quoting the CBS Consumer Products website as saying that Happy Days has “strong purchase-intent among women 18-54 and men 18-34.” CBS also sells related merchandise online with pictures of the cast on everything from mugs to T-shirts.
All those included in the suit say they had different salaries but the same contracts when it came to merchandising. Each was to receive a portion of net proceeds after the studio took 50% off the top as its handling fee, a practice the suit now questions.
This handling fee, charges the lawsuit, “regardless of actual handling costs violates defendants business conduct statement and constitutes a material breach of the implied covenant of good fair and fair deal in the agreement.”
The suit says that beginning in 2002, Moran (who played Joani Cunningham on the series) contacted the studio to see if she was owed money for merchandising but was told none was owed. They say they had no way to know the truth and only acted after seeing Happy Days slot machines in casinos.
The suit says the failure to pay breached their contracts and that CBS/Paramount is “guilty of oppression, fraud and malice." The cast believes it is entitled to punitive damages as well as at least $10 million in money they believe they are owed plus interest. They are also seeking to be repaid for their legal costs in bringing the suit.
On the show Williams played Warren ‘Potsie’ Weber, Ross was the mom Marion Cunningham, Most was Ralph Malph, Moran was Joanie and Bosley was the father, Howard Cunningham.
In a statement, a spokesperson for CBS Consumer Products responded: “We agree that funds are owed to the actors and have been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue."
Matthew Belloni also contributed to this article.