9:34pm PT by Ashley Cullins
'Survivor' Consultant Requests New Trial
"The jury got it half-right" when it found liability on Survivor consultant Layne Leslie Britton's breach of contract claims against Mark Burnett's ex-business partner Conrad Riggs and his company Cloudbreak Entertainment — but it ignored the amounts given by damages experts and its answers to verdict questions are "inconsistent and irreconcilable," according to a motion for a new trial on damages filed Thursday.
Britton’s lawsuit claims a 2000 consulting agreement entitled him to a share of Riggs’ revenue from Survivor and other Burnett projects, and he claims he was shorted at least $14 million for his work.
So Britton wants a new trial to obtain a new verdict on four questions submitted to the jury concerning damages.
"Where the jury went off the rails was in the determination of damages," Britton's attorney Shahin Rezvani writes in the motion. "The amounts they arrived at are simply inexplicable."
The special verdict form attached to the motion shows the jury found Britton entered into a contract with Cloudbreak, that he did all or substantially all of the things the contract required him to do, that Cloudbreak failed to do something it was required to do and that Britton was harmed by that failure.
However, they also found that the statute of limitations applies here because Britton knew of "facts that would have caused a reasonable person to suspect that he had suffered harm" and that a "reasonable and diligent investigation" would have disclosed that Cloudbreak had failed to pay Britton money he was due. (Britton said Riggs didn’t start paying him until 2002 and stopped in 2006, but he didn't sue until 2012.)
In short: The jury found Cloudbreak owed Britton money, but Britton waited too long to sue to recover the full amount.
“The jury was spot on," says Riggs' attorney Eric M. George. "There’s zero basis to ask the court to second-guess its verdict.”
The jury determined Britton was due $489,850 for damages suffered on or after June 14, 2008, through the date of the trial.
In court, while the jury was in recess, the parties discussed the wording of the special verdict questions that are now being challenged.
George expressed concern that the wording of this question could be confusing: “State the amount of economic loss, if any, suffered by Layne Britton due to the failure to pay him money due under the parties' agreement before 6/14/2008."
Judge Frederick C. Shaller explained that if the jury found the complaint to be barred by the statute of limitations that question was for the purpose of showing what amount the jury chose not to award, in the event of an appeal, and said counsel could explain that to the jurors during final arguments.
The jurors answered $0 in response to the question.
It is entirely possible the question was confusing and the jury answered the amount they chose to award, rather than the amount that could have been awarded if it weren't time-barred. The other three questions at issue involve similar wording and concepts.
Therefore, Rezvani argues, the amount is inadequate and warrants a new trial. "A verdict stating the correct amount of Britton's pre-June 14, 2008, damages is necessary before the Court passes on Britton's equitable estoppel claim in response to the jury's finding that the statute of limitations applies," he writes.
Britton's attorneys argue he didn't file a claim sooner because Riggs deceived him and therefore Riggs can't use the statute of limitations as a defense.
To address the damages the jury did award, Britton's damages expert Peter Rybolt submitted a declaration supporting the motion for a new trial.
"The jury's amount of $489,850 does not correspond to my opinions that Britton is owed $4,945,820 for Survivor and $6,161,729 for all Burnett-related projects, post June 14, 2008," Rybolt writes. "Nor does that appear to be any discernable fraction of the amounts given in my opinions."
Rybolt takes it a step further and points out the jury's figure also doesn't correspond to the defense expert Elaine Douglas' estimate that Britton would be owed $311,000 for post-November 2008 proceeds from Survivor.