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The Good Wife star Julianna Margulies experienced a setback in court on Tuesday when a judge denied her motion for summary judgment in an ongoing fight with D/F Management over more than $420,000 in claimed commissions.
Margulies was sued last year by the firm of Steve Dontanville, which claimed that it had a deal that entitled the ex-managers to 10 percent of what she continued to make on shows and for product deals that were negotiated while they were her representatives.
Last week, the judge in the case allowed her to pursue a defense that was based on the fact that the agreement wasn’t in writing, but today that defense proved less than mighty. As a result, Margulies is looking at a potential trial in October.
Margulies sought to apply the statute of frauds, a standard that requires that certain contracts be signed and in writing. Not all states have such a standard. New York arguably does. California doesn’t, paying more respect to the sanctity of oral agreements.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the key question was whether the judge would apply New York law or California law.
Sheldon Eisenberg, the attorney for Margulies, pointed to the fact that she lived and did much of her work in New York. (She owns a home in Santa Monica but the attorney said she rented it out and didn’t mainly live there.)
The other side directed the judge’s attention to the fact that the alleged agreement was negotiated in California and that Dontanville is based there. “Ms. Margulies reached out to Dontanville, why?” asked Mathew Rosengart at Greenberg Traurig, who represented the plaintiff. “Because he is in California. The epicenter of the entertainment industry is in California, and Mr. Dontanville performed his job in California. He helped her get the job with The Good Wife not in New York, but in California.”
Judge Ernest Hiroshige gave D/F Management the nod.
“We are pleased, but not surprised, by the judge’s well-reasoned decision rejecting Ms. Margulies’ effort to dismiss,” said Rosengart after the hearing. “My clients are disappointed that she reneged on her agreement and filed a meritless motion. We look forward to the trial in October.”
Eisenberg said he was “disappointed” by the failure of the summary judgment motion but stressed that the judge declined to rule firmly on which state law would apply, saving the issue for another day.
Nevertheless, the case now continues.
According to the original complaint, “Dontanville carefully helped take Margulies from a promising young newcomer to an internationally renowned television star who earned millions of dollars from her work on the television show ER and other projects.”
Margulies has brought counterclaims alleging that Dontanville breached the terms of the oral agreement by failing to perform adequately. The TV star also has made the allegation that her former rep’s “behavior became inappropriate and the source of embarrassment, upset and concern for” her.
The litigation is part of a trend of managers and agents making more aggressive collection efforts against clients.
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