November 13, 2013 12:40pm PT by Matthew Belloni , Eriq Gardner
Soaps Producer Ramps Up ABC Lawsuit: 'Mega Soap' Fraud Scheme Alleged
Time for more melodrama in the battle over One Life to Live and All My Children.
Prospect Park, which licensed the soaps from ABC with plans to relaunch them as web-only series, sued in April in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that the network sabotaged the relaunch by, among other things, killing off key characters.
On Wednesday, the plaintiff filed a new amended complaint with more details of ABC's alleged fraud and a demand for more than $95 million in damages. According to the latest court papers, ABC schemed in a quest for a "mega soap."
After Prospect Park entered into a license agreement for all of the elements of the series, ABC is said to have realized its error in abandoning the soaps. Prospect Park had some trouble in launching an online version, and ABC allegedly dismissed the producer's chances of developing the soaps and exercising its option. In late December, ABC announced it had hired two executives familiar with OLTL and despite its agreement with Prospect Park, began scheming "in its quest for a mega soap."
As part of the alleged plot, ABC convinced Prospect Park to permit it to "borrow" certain OLTL characters for use on ABC's remaining soap, General Hospital, in a limited and short-term capacity.
The plaintiff says that "even before the ink dried on the parties' agreement, ABC began unilaterally changing key storylines and themes, literally killing some OLTL characters and deeply integrating others into the GH landscape, all to create a mega soap of GH behind Prospect Park's back."
The lawsuit says the plan to kill off characters was hatched even before ABC approached Prospect Park to "borrow" characters. "ABC never intended to keep its promise," says the lawsuit. "The changes bewildered and alienated longtime OLTL fans."
As part of the next facet of the alleged scheme, the complaint states that "ABC even went so far as to induce the actors who had been playing some of the more popular characters on OLTL to sign secret, exclusive, multiyear contracts with ABC -- all without a word to Prospect Park."
Those contracts are alleged to have been used by ABC to "limit or prevent the actors' return to OLTL once Prospect Park exercised its option rights."
The new allegations come after the parties engaged in discovery since the lawsuit was filed in April.
"We have developed an increasing amount of evidence from ABC," Prospect Park attorney James Maloney, a high-profile trial lawyer who has been involved in cases on behalf of T. Boone Pickens' Mesa Petroleum as well as Shell and Penzoil. "The arrogance of ABC is simply amazing."
Prospect says that it has been damaged by such actions. The company says it has tried its best to salvage OLTL, but ABC has blocked it at every turn by refusing to run advertisements, by enlisting third parties like Hulu to back away from making any assistance, by keeping its actors away from talk shows like Good Morning America and The View and by commandeering critical OLTL actors.
"Confronted with losing its entire investment or trying to pick up the pieces and press on, Prospect Park eventually produced one new season of OLTL and of AMC," says the lawsuit. "But, the damage could not be undone, nor the fans reclaimed. As a consequence of ABC’s fraud and its multiple breaches of both the express terms of the parties' contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing included in every contract in this state, Prospect Park has sustained the loss of its investment of over $30 million, as well as the profits that it stood to make had ABC acted as the partner it had held itself out to be."
At the time of the original filing, ABC denied the claims.
"ABC remains very supportive of the online launch of both One Life to Live and All My Children," the network said in a statement after the original suit was filed. "With respect to Prospect Park's lawsuit, we believe the claims are baseless and we will defend them vigorously in court and not the press."
Prospect seeks more than $95 million in damages for breach of contract and promissory fraud. The producer also demands that it no longer have to pay any licensing fees, but that it still be entitled to an extension of the license agreement.
"This case was made for a jury," Maloney says. "A jury is going to be outraged by this conduct."