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A New York judge won’t lose focus in Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont‘s ongoing lawsuit against AMC over the millions of dollars allegedly owed from the success of the zombie series. At a court hearing on Tuesday, New York Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten decided that CAA — a co-plaintiff in the case — won’t have to turn over cable TV contingent compensation agreements that the talent agency has handled.
AMC demanded these documents, saying it was entitled to rebut Darabont’s charge that it failed to negotiate his agreement in good faith “within customary basic cable television industry parameters.” The requested agreements, it argued, would “show how other television studios interpret and administer similar contingent compensation agreements.”
In his lawsuit, Darabont alleges that AMC made a sweetheart deal licensing the show to itself in a manner that Walking Dead runs a deficit and that he and CAA “never see that first dollar” of profit participation. It’s a quintessential “vertical integration” claim, but the lawsuit also postulated that AMC had failed to treat plaintiffs consistently with industry custom and practice and acted in bad faith when negotiating the contingency profits deal.
In reaction to demands to turn over non-AMC TV deals, accounting statements and correspondence related to these deals, CAA warned that such production of these documents into prying eyes “would have a devastating impact on CAA’s entire business,” and that it shouldn’t have to pour through over 5,000 active bookings for some 2,000 clients in the TV industry.
The judge won’t allow this line of discovery, but might have signaled some future limitations on the way the plaintiffs approach any allegation that AMC violated industry custom and practice.
That’s certainly how AMC is reading what the judge had to say at today’s hearing.
AMC tells The Hollywood Reporter, “We are pleased the Court has stripped a number of the plaintiffs’ key claims out of this meritless lawsuit, which we will continue to vigorously defend.”
Not so, responds Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, attorneys for the plaintiffs. They tell THR, “The plaintiffs are extremely happy with the result of the discovery hearing today, where the court denied AMC’s overbroad and irrelevant document requests. All of the plaintiffs’ claims remain intact and we look forward to proceeding to trial on all of them.”
At the moment, the judge hasn’t issued any written opinion, and there’s obviously a difference of perspective about what the judge meant. Even if it’s true that the judge won’t let Darabont pursue allegations that AMC breached industry norm, the plaintiffs previously argued that the relevancy of industry custom and practice only pertained to AMC’s alleged failure to account for millions of dollars in tax credits. The plaintiffs still plan to pursue the “vertical integration” claims, and how today’s ruling will impact the litigation at large is something that may be addressed as the case proceeds.
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