Bill Nye the Science Guy Headed to Trial Against Disney

A Los Angeles judge trims Nye's profits lawsuit but will allow the TV star to pursue punitive damages.
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Bill Nye is now allowed to take limited claims against The Walt Disney Company to trial. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court entered an order that sets up the trial, now scheduled for May 2020.

In Nye's fourth amended complaint, he estimates $28 million in damages from the way that Disney allegedly shortchanged him on profits from his 1990s television show Bill Nye the Science Guy. He's also seeking punitive damages arising from how Disney has "a long and consistent pattern of under-reporting revenue and improperly applying deductions."

Disney moved to get the case down to an accounting spectacle and an interpretation of the contract. In a motion for summary adjudication, the defendant raised the incontestability provision of the deal and argued that Nye had suspicions early on and waited too long to object to participation statements. Nye responded that the quarterly profit statements that he received from a Disney subsidiary lacked detail and that he was unable to decipher whether they were complete and accurate. Nye also contended that Disney induced him to spend time, money and other resources on an audit under the false promise he'd be provided with access to the necessary records.

L.A Superior Court Judge Dalila Lyons has granted summary judgment to Disney with respect to participation statements issued before January 8, 2011.

Although the order lacks detail, that's exactly three years before Nye formally requested an audit. Due to a purported backlog of audits, Disney told Nye he'd have to wait in line for three or four years before the audit began.

Nye will move forward on the more recent participation statements — and the judge also rejects Disney's bid to rule out punitive damages.

Disney does manage to score other wins, however, including escaping the claim that it breached any fiduciary duty toward Nye. 

A 10-day trial is currently estimated, though given the latest ruling, that could be adjusted.