AMC Loses Third Bid to See CAA's Client Deals In 'Walking Dead' Lawsuit

A dispute with tens of millions of dollars at stake now moves to the deposition phase.

For the third time in the past year, AMC has whiffed in an effort to compel the Creative Artists Agency to hand over its client deals for use in the ongoing litigation over Walking Dead. This time, the decision comes from a New York appeals court, which on Tuesday affirmed the trial judge's ruling.

Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont and his agents at CAA are suing the cable network that carries the popular zombie drama for tens of millions of dollars. The lawsuit alleges that AMC made a sweetheart deal licensing the show to itself in a manner that Walking Dead runs a deficit and that he and CAA "never see that first dollar" of profit participation. The vertical integration claim also postulates that AMC had failed to treat plaintiffs consistently with industry custom and practice and acted in bad faith when negotiating the contingency profits deal.

AMC has sought to put these custom assertions to the test by looking how other television studios interpret and administer similar contingent compensation agreements. Since CAA was a co-plaintiff, AMC believed the easiest path towards doing so was to compel CAA client deals in discovery. That brought objections of relevancy and harassment by the talent agency.

New York Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten denied the motion in August, and then rejected a bid for reconsideration in November.

Still not satisfied, AMC filed an appeal. The conclusion isn't any different.

"Those documents, and CAA's and its clients' dealings with nonparty studios, have no bearing on the issues in this action and will not sharpen those issues, as the only relevant inquiry is the monetary terms of defendants' transactions with nonparty distributors of comparable programs," states the order from the first department of the appellate division at New York Supreme Court. "To the extent defendants allege that the requested documents are necessary to defend against any claims that they breached industry-wide standards, the motion court has stated that it will preclude plaintiffs from raising such claims."

Darabont's lawsuit is still in the discovery stage with depositions of the parties and witnesses scheduled to be completed by the end of September. After March 15, 2016, the parties could be making summary judgment motions. If a trial happen, it likely wouldn't occur until late next year.