MGM Wins Appeals Court Ruling Over Jim Caviezel Film 'Madison'

Jim Caviezel


Caviezel will star in J.J. Abrams and Jonah Nolan’s CBS drama pilot "Person of Interest."

An appeals court has sided with MGM in a long-running battle over the 2005 Jim Caviezel flop Madison, ruling that the backers of the film shouldn't have sued the distributor in Illinois.

Here's the ruling.

Madison, a $15 million-budgeted film that IMDb describes as "a story about a man's personal struggle to victory in the 1971 Madison, Indiana hydro-plane regatta," was shot in Illinois by director Bill Bindley in 1999. The film's financial backers sued MGM in 2009 claiming the studio failed to properly distribute the film. According to the lawsuit, MGM picked up Madison via a film producer's "put" deal and released it in April 2005 with the help of $6.75 million in marketing funds provided by a production entity called Madison LLC.

But the movie flopped, grossing just $500,000 in theaters when MGM released it in only 15 markets on 93 screens -- "a small fraction of what Madison LLC reasonably would have been expected to earn had MGM met its obligations," according to the opinion. The film's backers lost tens of millions of dollars, they claimed.

MGM fought the lawsuit on procedural grounds, arguing that the California-based studio did not have enough contact with Illinois to be sued there. Two years of litigation passed and, after a lengthy evidentiary hearing, a court ruled that it was proper to exercise jurisdiction over MGM in Illinois.  

But in a 42-page ruling issued in late September and obtained by THR, the appellate court overturns the trial court, ruling that MGM shouldn't have been sued in Illinois. "We find that MGM Distribution did not in fact have sufficient miminum contacts with Illinois to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction in this case," the ruling states. The case was then remanded back to the trial court, but having lost on the jurisdiction issue, the plaintiffs will have to figure out if they want to refile the case elsewhere. 

MGM was repped in the appeal by Marty Katz and a team at L.A.'s Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton.

Twitter: @THRMattBelloni