7:32pm PT by Ashley Cullins
'Survivor' Trial Nears Finale
There won’t be any torches or confessionals, but soon a jury will decide the winner in a trial pitting Mark Burnett’s ex-business partner against a Survivor consultant who says he’s owed millions of dollars.
Layne Leslie Britton sued Conrad Riggs and his company Cloudbreak Entertainment in 2012, claiming he was shorted at least $14 million for his consulting work on Survivor and other projects.
Britton says he was a business consultant whose ideas created an innovative and lucrative funding structure that got Survivor on the air after every major network had turned it down.
Riggs says he paid Britton $1.8 million dollars for a few months of part-time legal advice that he later found out was “parroted” from other attorneys.
Because there is a contract at the center of this dispute, and the two men have starkly different interpretations of that contract, the jurors will have to decide whose testimony and experts to believe.
During closing arguments Wednesday, the attorneys pulled no punches. Each told the jurors they had been lied to.
Britton’s attorney Jeffery McFarland said his client kept up his end of the deal, doing everything he was asked, but Riggs “decided he didn’t want to pay anymore and stopped.”
“We’re here because Cloudbreak and Mr. Riggs are trying to get out of their obligation with a litany of excuses,” McFarland said, telling the jurors that for years Riggs repeatedly lied to Britton to avoid paying him, and now he’s lying to them. “Mr. Riggs lied to you when he sat here and told you he hired Layne as a lawyer.”
McFarland reminded the jurors that his damages expert calculated Riggs owes Britton more than $15 million, with $7 million of that coming from Survivor.
"There's no question it's a lot of money," said McFarland. "He earned it just as much as Mr. Riggs did."
When Riggs' attorney Eric George took over, he wasted no time questioning Britton's honesty.
“I don’t think he’s worthy of your belief," said George. "That’s a harsh thing to say, but I believe it. I can prove it to you.”
George asked the jury to insist on evidence and ignore arguments, claiming Britton's case boils down to red herrings meant to distract the jury from the contract, which he said puts an expiration date on the deal and limits his revenue share to only Survivor.
“There’s literally not a single piece of evidence about the contract that helps Layne Britton,” George said, adding that he cringed when he saw the numbers Britton's damages expert shared. "If Layne Britton was really entitled to anything close to these amounts, he would have sued earlier."
Jon Cederberg had the last word on behalf of Britton. He began his rebuttal by describing George’s closing as a “two-hour rant” and telling the jury it’s not a fact that Britton is a liar, but merely George’s opinion.
“The court has instructed you that lawyer talk is not evidence,” said Cederberg.
His rebuttal was cut short by the end-of-day recess, so he will wrap up Thursday morning and the jury will begin its deliberation.
The jury will decide if the two men had a contract, if either of them broke it, if the statute of limitations should nix this lawsuit and if any damages should be awarded to Britton.