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Two lawsuits, both featuring plaintiffs who used government connections for the purposes of television productions, have settled.
The first was filed more than three years ago by Hedda Muskat, who worked on such series as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, America’s Got Talent and A Current Affair, and allegedly came up with an idea for a reality show set at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Represented by CAA, she and her partner teamed up with Ashton Kutcher’s production company Katalyst and came to a deal to air the show on TruTV.
Then, the DMV backed out, which doomed the reality show (and led to a separate lawsuit between Kutcher’s company and the agency.) In her complaint, Muskat blamed Katalyst for excluding her from meetings and downplaying her involvement, even though she asserted the DMV was hesitant about Katalyst’s involvement and only continued to consider the project because Muskat said she would retain creative control.
According to Katalyst’s summary judgment motion, however, Muskat was desperate for a producer who could turn the idea into fruition and came to an agreement with Katalyst that assigned rights. The defendant argued she explicitly gave up approval and control. Katalyst aimed to beat a claim of breach of oral contract by arguing Muskat lacked evidentiary support for vague and untimely allegations. The defendant additionally argued it owed her no fiduciary duty and promised a motion for sanctions against her for allegedly withholding critical emails during the discovery phase.
A judge was set to rule on summary adjudication in early February, with a trial targeted later this year, but on Jan. 10, the plaintiff filed a notice of settlement. The terms haven’t been released. Steven Lowe was the attorney for Muskat, while Harrison Dossick represented Katalyst.
In the second lawsuit, Paula Paizes, Barbara Leibovitz Hellman and Jamie Hellman targeted producer Mark Gordon with the claims of breaching contract, confidence and fiduciary duty with respect to the ABC drama Quantico.
According to the complaint, Hellman and Leibovitz spent 16 weeks following a class of FBI recruits in the late 1990s for the CNN documentary, Quantico: The Making of an FBI Agent, and worked with Paizes, who once worked under Gordon, to bring him the documentary, which the Mark Gordon Company optioned.
Hellman and Leibovitz said they had an agreement with Gordon’s company that provided “information which was not included in the Documentary, including all of their notes and transcripts … [that] included detailed descriptions of the training, both physical and psychological, and personal stories of the FBI trainees,” and that 11 years later, Quantico was produced.
They asserted the series was “clearly derived” from their work and wanted credits and damages.
This lawsuit never got to the summary judgment phase, and late last month, the case was dismissed after the parties told the judge they had reached an undisclosed settlement. Neville Johnson represented the plaintiffs, while attorney Sheldon Eisenberg handled the defense.
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