Abbott sues 20th TV over strike suspension

Showrunner claims the studio owes him $1.38 mil

Veteran TV showrunner Kevin Abbott has sued Twentieth Century Fox Television claiming that the studio owes him $1.38 million for improperly withholding payments and suspending his overall deal during the 2007-08 WGA strike.

According the breach of contract lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Abbott was let go along with many other top writer-producers during the opening days of the strike. But he claims his deal with 20th TV "was markedly different from the contracts of many of his peers" and "specifically protected him from suspension or termination based solely upon a strike."

Abbott, whose credits include "Roseanne," "My Name Is Earl" and the current ABC sitcom "Surviving Suburbia," claims he signed an overall deal with 20th TV in 1999 to work on the sitcom "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" and other shows. He signed another deal in 2002 to work on "Reba" and another overall deal in 2005 to continue with the studio for three years and $6 million.

He said 20th TV and his representatives agreed that the standard terms of his 1999 deal would be incorporated into and govern the 2005 arrangement.

That 1999 deal allegedly contained a force majeure clause that prevented the studio from firing him during the labor standoff. It "expressly precluded suspension based upon a labor strike, unless Fox suspended all 'similarly situated' show runners," which did not occur, the lawsuit claims.

20th TV declined comment on the suit.