Writer's 'Main Justice' Suit Against CAA Trimmed by Court

CAA_Building _ Sunrise- CAA Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of CAA

A writer's agency agreement with CAA isn't enough to automatically trigger a promise to pay for an individual idea that was allegedly used by another client, a California judge ruled Monday. 

John Musero in March sued the agency, claiming it took his idea for a series about the U.S. Attorney General called Main Justice, redeveloped it with another writer and sold it to a major network (under the same title) and that his agents failed to adequately represent his interests.

Ideas aren't protected by copyright, so creators who feel their concepts were used after being pitched often turn to breach of implied contract claims. To meet the bar for a so-called Desny claim, Musero would have to show he clearly conditioned his disclosure upon CAA's agreement to pay for it if it is used, that his agents and agency accepted that condition and that they used his ideas "rather than their own ideas or ideas from other sources."

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco on Monday granted CAA’s demurrer with respect to Musero’s claims for breach of contract. She found the writer's argument that his agency agreement created an implied contract with his agents unpersuasive because they would not have been the ones agreeing to pay him.

"While Plaintiff has alleged the general nature of Plaintiff’s relationship with Defendants, the allegations as they stand do not indicate that Plaintiff 'clearly conditioned' his disclosure of the Main Justice script upon Defendants’ agreement to pay for it if used," Orozco writes in a tentative ruling that was adopted during a Monday morning hearing.

The court also granted CAA's demurrer to Musero's claim for breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, finding he didn't adequately allege which terms of his agent-talent representation contract were breached.

Orozco denied the agency’s demurrer to the breach of fiduciary duty claim, finding Musero's pleading is detailed enough to survive the motion. "[T]he Complaint alleges in detail the violations of trust and confidence by Defendants," she writes. "While Defendants would prefer more specificity, the Complaint adequately apprises Defendants of the charges against them. Any ambiguities may be clarified during discovery. The instant action is not one for fraud; accordingly, there is no heightened pleading standard."

Orozco also found that Musero hasn’t sufficiently pled facts to support a case for punitive damages against CAA because he didn't show a managing agent, officer or director of the company authorized the alleged conduct. She will allow him to amend the claim and to pursue punitive damages against ex-agents Andrew Miller and Leah Yerushalaim as individuals. Musero will also have a chance to amend his claims for breaches of contract and good faith. (Read the full decision below.)