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Four months after AMC came to a $200 million settlement with Frank Darabont over profit claims for Walking Dead, the dispute has taken a surprising new turn with a new lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court. AMC apparently demands arbitration with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and other executive producers of the hit zombie show. After many years in open court, the Kirkman gang is responding, “No way!”
According to the latest complaint, AMC is concerned with the “most favored nation” clauses in the contracts of executive producers entitled to profit participation. It’s possible that Darabont’s $200 million settlement means Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Charles Eglee and Glen Mazzara get equal treatment, although none of these individuals have yet pursued such a claim. As their new lawsuit states, “Indeed, Plaintiffs have not even seen the documentation of the Darabont settlement to ascertain whether they might have such a claim.”
AMC wants it resolved nevertheless — but not in Los Angeles Superior Court where the parties are currently battling, but rather in arbitration. AMC filed a demand for arbitration Oct. 28. When asked for comment by THR, AMC attorney Scott Edelman said: “We filed for arbitration to confirm that the recent settlement in another lawsuit related to profit participation on The Walking Dead has no impact on the agreements of these profit participants.”
The Kirkman crew, represented by Sheldon Eisenberg, believe that the demand is coming now because they recently experienced success when a Los Angeles judge allowed them to pursue new legal theories and punitive damages in their ongoing profits case (an action that was similar to Darabont’s in how it questioned the amount of imputed license fees given AMC’s role in both producing and exhibiting the series).
But there’s one potential problem with AMC’s demand for arbitration.
“There is not a word in any of these contracts about arbitration,” states the complaint (read in full here). “Instead, Kirkman’s, Hurd’s, Alpert’s, and Eglee’s contracts specify that disputes are to be settled with an action at law for money damages.”
The plaintiffs say that AMC has attempted to unilaterally impose arbitration after the signing of deals, but they believe that’s something that needs to be negotiated. They add that years in court by AMC over the topic of profit accounting qualifies as a waiver.
Kirkman is seeking an injunction to stop any arbitration. AMC’s Edelman replies: “These participants have now gone to court to try to stop the arbitration, even though their contracts say this dispute must be arbitrated. Their efforts will fail.”
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