For the second time this year, a California federal judge has rejected Rizzoli and Isles author Tess Gerritsen‘s lawsuit alleging she’s owed a portion of the profits from the Warner Bros. blockbuster Gravity.
Gerritsen optioned her own “Gravity” work in 1999 to New Line Productions, a film company that was later acquired by Warners. The trouble she’s been having in her lawsuit is showing why a studio that made no deal with her should be held liable for breaching her contract. She’s put forward various theories that Warners assumed obligations in its acquisition or should be deemed the “alter ego” of New Line Productions, but hasn’t been able to sufficiently support such theories with hard, cold facts.
After she failed in January and warned of calamity for writers should studios hide behind corporate shells, Gerritsen amended her complaint to add details ranging from statements made by Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes to how films are green-lit at Warners‘ subsidiary.
If this is a shell game, though, the defendant is still winning.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow once again grounded her Gravity suit by dismissing it as conclusory.
In a 60-page opinion, the judge runs through Gerritsen’s theories and knocks each down.
For example, Morrow writes that “the court cannot agree that WB’s exercise of control over Katja and New Line plausibly suggests that it intended to assume all of Katja’s and New Line’s liabilities and obligations following the purported consolidation” and later that there aren’t facts alleged “suggesting that WB acquired all of Katja’s and New Line’s assets in connection with the 2008 consolidation, or that it knew of the 1999 Contract and Guaranty at the time of the consolidation.”
She also nixes a new claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as outside the scope of the original lawsuit.
The lawsuit isn’t quite over as the judge gives Gerritsen a second opportunity to amend the lawsuit to cure deficiencies, though the plaintiff’s chances look even further remote after the latest ruling.