March 14, 2012 10:57am PT by Eriq Gardner
Writer Sues Fox Claiming 'Touch' Was Stolen From Book, Asks for Broadcast Halt
Fox is being sued by a writer who claims his novel and screenplay about an autistic child became the basis for the new series Touch. The show stars and is executive produced by Kiefer Sutherland, who is also named as a defendant.
The lawsuit was filed this week in New York federal court by an attorney for Everette Hallford, who wrote Visionary, a novel published in 2008 by Tumblar House Books, a small Catholic publisher.
According to the book's description:
"Slacker reporter Jim Jacobson is sent to cover the visit of the mystic-prophet figure, Nigel Fox. Jacobson's skepticism is exceeded only by his self-doubt and remorse about his own life and roots. Before the day is over, he will be hurled into an adventure that spans sixty years of history, the events of a world war and a beautiful and ill-fated love affair set in the backdrop of eastern Orthodox spirituality."
Hallford's suit claims that in 2009, he spent every day at a New York children's hospital, caring for his newborn granddaughter, who eventually died of pineal blastoma cancer. During his visits, he came to know a bioethics representative of the hospital, who said he was good friends with Tim Kring, who created the NBC show Heroes before creating Touch. Hallford says he was invited to meet Kring, but the meeting never happened. Instead, Hallford says, he passed along his book, which included a link to a website that showcased Hallford's screen adaptation entitled "Prodigy."
Hallford says there is a "reasonable possibility" that Kring saw this.
In the complaint, Hallford lists various similarities between the two works, including that both feature an 11-year-old autistic boy with special powers and an intimate knowledge of the interconnectedness of all things and a failed-journalist father whose wife has died and is overcome by grief. Hallford lists similarities in the kid's special powers, including communication through a crypted medium and the ability to see into the future. Hallford also has theories about how Touch got its characters' names, Martin and Jacob Bohm. Hallford says his book talked about the theories of a physicist named David Bohm.
The plaintiff also says that "dozens of identical events that occur in virtually the same sequence" in both works.
He's seeking an injunction and statutory damages for Fox' broadcast of Touch, which previewed in January to sold ratings and is scheduled to premiere March 22.
Fox declined comment on the suit.
TV networks often have to contend with idea theft claims. In fact, Kring's previous show, Heroes, was the subject of a $50 million lawsuit that claimed the theft of a graphic novel. In that lawsuit, some of the scenes of the fourth season were called "virtually identical." A judge wasn't impressed with the similarities, ordering the writer to pay $113,000 to NBC, which led the disgruntled writer to try to get the FBI involved.