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Ever since fired Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont and his agents at CAA lodged a bombshell lawsuit against AMC last December alleging they’ve been cheated of tens of millions of dollars from the hit zombie series, the parties have very nearly been marching up and down the courtroom steps with discovery demands.
So far, Darabont’s side is clearly winning favor from New York Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten, getting her to order AMC to produce license agreements governing Mad Men and Breaking Bad while getting her to deny AMC’s request for cable TV contingent compensation agreements that CAA has handled on behalf of its wider clientele.
Nevertheless, AMC was back in court on Friday, bringing a new motion over those CAA documents.
According to AMC’s latest court papers:
“Using this information, AMC Studios will be able to demonstrate, contrary to the allegations of the Complaint, that it provided Plaintiffs with the MAGR [modified adjusted gross receipts] definition in a ‘timely’ manner and made more valuable concessions when negotiating that definition than are customary in the basic cable industry. In other words, Defendants acted in ‘good faith’ in accordance with customary basic cable television industry parameters consistent with AMC’s business practices when negotiating the MAGR definition and thus fully complied with their contractual obligations.”
The problem is that Judge Bransten has already flatly rejected the request. Here’s what she said during a court hearing on August 12:
“What other artists received from non AMC networks, studios, is totally irrelevant. There is no allegation in the complaint that  AMC failed to provide Darabont with a standard contract… The allegations are that AMC didn’t calculate the profits correctly as called for in the contract because it gave itself too low a fee and didn’t account for tax credit and two, that AMC fired Darabont without cause.”
Is AMC a glutton for punishment? Not exactly.
Towards the end of the August hearing, Judge Bransten made a comment that she would “preclude the Plaintiffs from asserting a breach of industry practice and custom as to good faith negotiation.”
Dale Kinsella, attorney for the plaintiff, responded, “Very good,” seemingly at peace with the idea that the case isn’t much about that issue anyway. In a dispute where the parties are kind of fighting about the extent of the lawsuit, here’s how he described the claims of the lawsuit at the hearing:
“As your Honor correctly noted, what has happened here is that AMC, on the right hand, deals with AMC on the left hand, and they set a license fee for their show that is so artificially low, that any profit definition they give to Mr. Darabont and or CAA, will never, ever see profits.”
Judge Bransten seems unlikely to reconsider her ruling and compel CAA to hand over these documents, but AMC also brings an alternative request to preclude claims that it failed to negotiate profit definitions in good faith, that the imputed license fee was undervalued, that the profit definition wasn’t provided in a timely manner, and that it failed to properly account for contingent compensation consistent with industry custom and practice. In other words, AMC has made its first stab at getting the judge to narrow Darabont’s lawsuit. So it thinks.
UPDATE 10/29 3:30 pm: CAA blasts AMC’s move, calling it a “stealth motion for summary judgment.” A hearing will be held next week. Here’s CAA’s opposition papers.
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