12:54pm PT by Ashley Cullins
AMC Asks Court to Pause 'Walking Dead' Lawsuit After New Frank Darabont Complaint
AMC's attorneys are warning a New York judge of a "disturbing" development they say has upended the already heated lawsuit over profits from The Walking Dead.
That development, of course, is a second lawsuit filed Thursday by the series co-creator Frank Darabont and CAA against AMC — as both the disgruntled producer and the network were awaiting Judge Eileen Bransten's decisions on their dueling motions for summary judgment in the original $280 million court battle. In that fight, Darabont claims AMC robbed him of contingent profits by producing the series and then licensing it to its cable network affiliate at a well-below-market rate.
"Plaintiffs could have raised the new claims months ago — certainly before the September 2017 summary judgment hearing," writes AMC attorney Orin Snyder in a Tuesday letter to Bransten. "This new case is Plaintiffs’ transparent and unfair attempt to game the system and secure a second bite at the apple if they do not prevail in this case."
Snyder is asking Bransten to pause proceedings in the original lawsuit while the court evaluates whether it should be consolidated with the sequel, which centers on The Walking Dead comics creator Robert Kirkman's contract with AMC. Darabont alleges Kirkman has better protection against self-dealing, which violates a "most favored nations" clause in his agreement that entitles him to treatment no less favorable than any other Walking Dead profit participant.
Darabont and CAA claim Kirkman's deal was revealed to them during a second lawsuit filed against AMC by Kirkman and the other Walking Dead stakeholders — but, because CAA reps Kirkman, Snyder argues it had access to the information long ago and should have produced the document during discovery.
"This Court should recognize this maneuver for what it is — an outrageously unfair gambit to litigate this case twice, in a piecemeal and shotgun fashion, on potentially different (and conflicting) theories," writes Snyder. "Going forward now would materially and unjustly prejudice Defendants, forcing us to defend against the same claim in two separate actions, with no assurance that success in the first-filed action would ultimately resolve the parties’ dispute."
AMC indicated it intends to file a motion asking Bransten to either stay the first suit, dismiss the second or consolidate the two.
Darabont's attorney Dale Kinsella sent The Hollywood Reporter a lengthy statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the letter: "AMC’s written communication directly to Justice Bransten, while the Court is preparing to rule on Darabont’s dispositive motion, is both outrageous and manifestly improper. Worse, it should be obvious from even a casual reading of the letter that AMC is desperately seeking to divert attention away from its wrongful conduct during the three years of discovery in the underlying Darabont action. When Justice Bransten takes up the question of what sanctions are appropriate for AMC’s deplorable conduct, it will be decided not on the basis of AMC’s hysterical 11th hour plea to halt the case, but on a fully developed record. Finally, AMC’s letter, written by its new counsel, reflects either a misunderstanding of the facts or a deliberate attempt to mislead the Court about the nature of the two separate actions. Darabont and CAA will be filing a further response to AMC’s frivolous letter in the days to come."
Jan. 23, 2:05 p.m. Updated with a statement from Frank Darabont's attorney.