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A jury has ruled against Lisa Kudrow in a dispute over whether she owes her former manager Scott Howard.
In a long-running case, Howard sued the Friends star in 2008 after being terminated the year earlier. The manager contended that he was owed 5 percent of her earnings from continuing residuals of work negotiated when Howard was representing Kudrow. The two operated under an oral agreement, and Kudrow disputed that there was any understanding of this arrangement. At trial, Howard pointed to the customs and practices in the entertainment industry.
On Wednesday, at a Los Angeles Superior Court, a jury ordered Kudrow to pay $1.6 million.
The verdict came with a big assist from a California appeals court.
Originally, the judge in the case ruled in favor of Kudrow on summary judgment. But in August 2012, an appeals court revived the dispute by saying the judge had improperly excluded the testimony of Howard’s expert witness Martin Bauer, a longtime Hollywood agent, manager and executive.
On the witness stand, Bauer testified that managers are paid in perpetuity on all gigs their clients take while being represented by the manager. The witness said he had never had a commission cut off because he had been fired. “I would never make that deal,” he told the jury. “The only consequence of a termination is on future projects.”
Howard himself testified that he had never discussed post-termination commissions with his client.
As for Kudrow, she said that she had once demanded to pay commission only on the first round of residuals and not beyond that. She reported her manager replying, “I can’t agree. I don’t do that for any of my clients.” But Howard relented, she said.
The trial also focused on Howard’s services for Kudrow and the reasons for firing, but ultimately what might have mattered most was a common practice in the industry in the absence of a firm agreement. For this reason, Eddy Klein, an attorney at Liner, says the Kudrow ruling emphasizes the the importance of agreeing to terms in advance. “So long as managers don’t put these terms in writing, we will continue to see disputes of this nature.”
The ruling isn’t a complete loss for Kudrow, who has recently been appearing on ABC’s Scandal. It was believed that there could be as much as $8 million in post-termination commissions at stake. A ruling of $1.6 million is obviously much less. Still, it’s obviously welcomed by Howard, who will add the money from the jury’s verdict to the $11 million he’s gotten from the actress during the course of a 16-year professional relationship.
Kudrow was represented by Gerard Sauer of Sauer & Wagner while Howard was represented by Mark Baute of Baute Crochetiere & Gilford.
Sauer commented, “The jury’s verdict is merely one step in the legal process. This case ultimately will be resolved at the appellate level. Ms. Kudrow has faith in the judicial system, and she believes that the eventual outcome of this contractual dispute will be in her favor.”
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