Judge OKs Ashton Kutcher Lawsuit Over DMV Reality Show

FILM: Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher (CAA, Untitled, Sloane Offer) is attached to star as Steve Jobs in "Jobs," an independent biopic being produced and financed by Five Star Institute. Joshua Michael Stern ("Swing Vote") is directing.

A California judge is allowing a lawsuit filed by Ashton Kutcher’s production company against the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to move into the fast lane.

Kutcher's Katalyst Media sued the DMV last June alleging the state agency reneged on a commitment to cooperate on a reality TV show. On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Michael Johnson issued a tentative ruling denying an attempt by the DMV to get the case dismissed. At a full hearing Monday, the tentative ruling was made final.

The DMV argues that Katalyst had not specified in its lawsuit several details of how and when the show would be produced. But the judge writes in the tentative ruling that the DMV’s complaints were either irrelevant or might be addressed in the discovery phase of the case, when both sides have to show their evidence. “At the pleading stage,” writes the judge, “this is sufficient.”

Kutcher’s company claims that in 2010 it approached the DMV about developing a half-hour series featuring employees and patrons to “capture the variously humorous, emotional, dramatic, moving, humanizing and entertaining situations that arise on a daily basis at the DMV’s more than 170 offices across the state.”

The DMV admits that it initially was responsive to the idea of a show about the everyday workings of a DMV office presented to them by the producers of Punk’d, Beauty and the Geek and True Beauty. The DMV provided a written commitment for the production of four initial episodes and up to six seasons of the show after Katalyst set up a deal with the TruTV cable network.

Then, according to lawsuit, the DMV “abruptly and without justifiable cause,” changed its mind, causing Katalyst at least $1.44 million in damages.

In seeking a dismissal, the DMV argued that the contract did not specify any time that the series would be shot besides “Summer/Fall 2011,” and Katalyst failed to include a location or secure a film permit, as required by the law and the contract.

The judge writes that even if the terms were not set, the DMV later agreed to the specifics, so that should defeat its request for a dismissal at this early stage.

Katalyst is represented by Marty Singer at Lavely & Singer. The DMV is repped by deputy attorney general Paul Epstein.