March 09, 2011 1:13pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Nancy Grace Sued for $15 Million Over 'Swift Justice' (Exclusive)
Nancy Grace has been served with a $15 million lawsuit for allegedly not honoring an agreement to have her long-term associate, Patricia Caruso, act as executive producer of her new syndicated show Swift Justice.
Caruso filed the lawsuit yesterday in New York Supreme Court and claims that she and Grace had an agreement in 2008 to together create a legal-themed syndicated TV series.
Grace is a top-rated and controversial host at CNN Headline News. Caruso says she had known Grace since 2002 when both were employed by Court TV. In 2008, the two are said to have had a lunch meeting at the Jubilee Restaurant in New York. Grace and Caruso discussed a new show, proposed to be entitled Grace's Cases, featuring Grace assisting individuals in their legal issues with the help of other lawyers, investigators and experts. The two are said to have discussed various alternative formats and arrived at an agreement to work together.
The agreement doesn't appear to have been made in writing.
Over the next two years, Caruso says she worked tirelessly to help develop the show, including talking with various talent agents and network executives. Caruso says she, along with Encounter Studios CEO Shannon Murphy, helped arrange a pitch session with CBS Television Distribution and strategized how to best leverage network interest with Grace.
CBS was interested in the program and began formal talks to develop it. However, CBS backed off from the pitched idea of an hour-long format in favor of a half-hour program where Grace would serve as judge, albeit without the robes, according to the suit.
During that time, Grace is said to have communicated with others, including her own attorney, that she wouldn't do the deal without Caruso, prompted by rumors that CBS didn't want Caruso involved in the project.
In March, 2009, Grace allegedly tried to placate Caruso's fears about being excluded from the series. Caruso then says she instructed her agent, Sean Perry at WME (who also represented Grace) to begin shopping the series to other networks. Pitch meetings were set up at NBC and Fox.
Then, Grace and CBS reached an agreement for a new syndicated program that would eventually be called Swift Justice. The parties celebrated, but over the next few months, Caruso waited for her own executive producer deal to no avail, she says, despite alleged assurances from Grace that it would be forthcoming. It didn't happen. In February 2010, Caruso says she was offered by CBS a role as "Executive, Talent and Audience Relations" with a one-year $100,000 contract, and a network option for a second. Caruso never got a better offer.
Swift Justice debuted last autumn to strong ratings.
Caruso claims that had she been an executive producer she would have gotten, by industry standard, a 10 percent fee of the show budget plus back-end compensation at around 10 percent. The show has a $200,000 budget per week, and Caruso estimates modified adjusted gross revenue at $100 million, adding up to claimed damages of $15 million for the alleged breach of contract.
GossipCop.com cited souces that Caruso was readying a lawsuit in January.