6:30am PT by Ashley Cullins
CAA Asks Court to Toss Writer's Lawsuit Over 'Main Justice'
CAA has unleashed a deluge of attacks on the legal sufficiency of a writer's suit that claims his agents failed to adequately represent him and gave his idea for a series to another client.
John Musero in March sued the agency, along with agents Andrew Miller and Leah Yerushalaim, claiming his agents suppressed the option price for his pilot called Main Justice and later redeveloped it with another writer client without his knowledge and permission and sold it to a major network. In 2017, it was announced that former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Jerry Bruckheimer, a CAA client, were teaming on a drama series called Main Justice to be written by another agency client, Sascha Penn. Musero claims Miller initiated the development of the project and pitched it using his idea.
The agency and agents on May 21 filed a demurrer to the complaint, arguing that several of the causes of action are "unintelligible" and the complaint as a whole is "fatally vague."
Attorney Craig Holden argues that the law doesn't protect ideas, and without a copyright infringement claim Musero's only recourse would be breach of implied contract. Except, Holden argues, Musero can't allege a so-called Desny claim either. "[A]n implied contract may exist where there is a mutual understanding that the plaintiff will be compensated if the defendant uses the plaintiff’s idea," he writes. "The elements of a Desny claim are not satisfied by alleging a third party used Plaintiff’s idea, without alleging use by Defendants."
He also argues Musero doesn't explain which ideas were misappropriated, which agreement his claims for breaches of confidentiality and contract are based upon, or which conduct is attributed to which defendant.
CAA, Miller and Yerushalaim also filed a special motion to strike allegations related to misappropriation under California's anti-SLAPP statute, which brings an early end to lawsuits arising from protected conduct like free speech. Here, they argue the constitutionally protected activity is their communication in connection with the creation of a TV series.
"[T]here is simply no evidence that Sascha Penn, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruckheimer TV, Bruckheimer Productions, or any other entity or individual involved in the making of the series selected by CBS for production as a pilot, were in any way informed in their work by John Musero or his script, concept, pilot, series overview or treatment," writes Holden.
Each of the agents filed a brief declaration in support of the motion. Miller says he never provided "the script, concept, pitch, series overview or pilot" for Musero's Main Justice to Penn and that Penn approached him with his idea for Main Justice and the two never discussed Musero's previous project or any of his other work. Yerushalaim says she's never met or spoken to Penn or and didn't play any role in the creation or sale of his Main Justice project.
The defendants also filed a motion to strike other portions of the complaint, arguing that Musero failed to sufficiently support his claim for punitive damages. "These claims are, at their core, creative and commercial disagreements in the entertainment industry, and allegations of neglect," writes Holden. "They do not rise to the level of 'malice, oppression or fraud,' or constitute an 'extreme indifference' which 'decent citizens should not tolerate' as required by the statute and case law. Nor do the allegations come close to meeting any standard of specificity."
A hearing is currently scheduled for June 24.