'NCIS' Creator Suffers Another Setback in CBS Lawsuit

Cliff Lipson/CBS

The CBS drama ranks No. 1 among total viewers of scripted series for the past three seasons.

JAG and NCIS creator Donald Bellisario has suffered a second setback in his lawsuit claiming CBS cheated him out of profits from the spinoff series NCIS: Los Angeles, with a judge ruling Thursday that Bellisario isn't owed anything under a 2006 agreement with the studio.

As we first reported in April, Bellisario is suing CBS Studios for millions of dollars based on three separate deals signed in 1992, 2002 and 2006. He claims he negotiated a "first opportunity" with CBS and predecessor Paramount Television to work on NCIS: Los Angeles or receive millions in payments from the top-rated show, which he argues is a second spinoff of JAG. CBS argues that Bellisario, who was fired from NCIS in 2007, is not entitled under the contracts to a share of NCIS: LA, which it argues is a spinoff of NCIS, not JAG.

In August, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon dismissed Bellisario's claim on the 2002 contract covering NCIS based on an 18-month statute of limitations. (The ruling was appealed all the way to the California Supreme Court, which declined to intervene.) And now, in an 11-page decision issued Thursday and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Alarcon has tossed claims under the 2006 agreement. (The ruling follows a tentative decision Wednesday. Read the full decision here.)

That leaves the 1992 agreement as the remaining basis for Bellisario's suit. But the case is far from over. The judge has ruled that Bellisario can proceed on his main claim that the contract language negotiated by ICM agent Bob Broder and lawyers at Loeb & Loeb provides him with the right to participate in spinoffs, which could include a second spinoff of JAG, if the court ultimately agrees that NCIS: LA is indeed a spinoff of that show. A trial in the case is scheduled for Oct. 30.

The rest of the Thursday ruling allows Bellisario to amend his complaint with respect to the 1992 deal and discusses a possible distinction between "nonplanted" and "generic" spinoffs (CBS claims they mean the same thing; Bellisario says there's a difference that benefits his case). It's a nuanced -- and complicated -- argument that is likely to be hotly contested in the run0up to a trial.

Bellisario attorney Ronald Nessim did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CBS attorney Scott Edelman declined comment.

Email: Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

Twitter: @THRMattBelloni