AMC Won't Obtain CAA's Client Deals In 'Walking Dead' Lawsuit

The Walking Dead S05E01 AK Still - H 2014
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead S05E01 AK Still - H 2014

At a court hearing on Friday, AMC lost a bid to compel the Creative Artists Agency to hand over client deals for use in the ongoing litigation over Walking Dead.

Frank Darabont and his agents at CAA are suing for tens of millions of dollars, alleging that AMC made a sweetheart deal licensing the show to itself in a manner that Walking Dead runs a deficit and there's never any contingent profits to dish out. The plaintiffs are also claiming that AMC failed to negotiate the Walking Dead creator's agreement in good faith "within customary basic cable television industry parameters."

That led AMC to demand access to cable TV contingent compensation agreements handled by CAA. AMC presented the effort as a way to test the plaintiffs' industry custom assertions while Darabont's side challenged the relevancy and cited the potentially devastating impact of submitting CAA's 5,000 active bookings for some 2,000 clients in the TV industry to inspection.

New York Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten denied a motion in August, but AMC renewed its bid the following month.

If AMC couldn't get access to the CAA docs, it asked the judge in the alternative to preclude Darabont's claims that it failed to negotiate profit definitions in good faith, that the imputed license fee for the zombie series was undervalued, that the profit definition wasn't provided in a timely manner, and that it failed to properly account for contingent compensation consistent within industry custom and practice.

AMC did this after seizing upon one of the judge's comments at the August hearing about possible preclusion.

In reaction, the plaintiffs argued that AMC's latest request "amounts to a stealth motion for summary judgment" and that AMC's obligation toward Darabont was different from industry practice and custom regarding how the entertainment industry at large negotiates talent agreements.

Judge Bransten has both denied the bid to compel discovery of CAA as well as the alternative motion to preclude claims and allegations in the complaint. She reiterated her ruling from August and probably because the dispute has become quite heated, appointed a special master to oversee discovery.

This might not foreclose AMC from renewing an effort to kill certain claims as unsupported in a future summary judgment motion. The judge's latest ruling will also be appealable. But it appears as though AMC has earned its second strike in the pre-trial phase of the lawsuit.

AMC comments, "Today's hearing was procedural and nothing that happened is new or changes the fact that this case is meritless."

"We are pleased that the Court reaffirmed her ruling denying AMC’s outrageous and harassing requests for CAA’s nonparty client files," says Chad Fitzgerald at Kinsella Weitzman. "We look forward to vindicating our clients’ rights at trial.

Twitter: @eriqgardner