Don Johnson may have walked away with $19 million but the legal squabble over Nash Bridges continues. Today Rysher Entertainment, its present owners Qualia Capital and its past owners Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s 2929 Entertainment filed a complaint in LA Superior Court seeking indemnification and at least $48 million from Cox Media over the money they paid the actor earlier this year. In their complaint for contractual indemnity and declaratory relief (read it here), the plaintiffs claim that when the Atlanta-based media conglomerate sold Rysher and the rights to the San Francisco-based cop series to 2929 affiliates in November 2001 it told the company that the rights to Nash Bridges also included $191 million in “unrecouped production expenses.” Cox allegedly also conveyed to the buyer that no “copyright claim would entitle any third party to revenues from Nash Bridges until the gross receipts from the show exceeded the allowable deductions,” says the 11-page filing.
What the plaintiffs say they didn’t know is that Cox had written down $71.4 million in production costs before the sale. The very non-deductible production costs that a 2010 jury in Johnson’s 2009 lawsuit used in part to determine the profits that Nash Bridges made. Awarded $23.2 million by the jury in 2010, Don Johnson Productions, which was a producer on the show during its 1996 to 2001 run on CBS, was also awarded 50% of the copyright to Nash Bridges and hence entitlement to syndication rights funds. At one point, Johnson was awarded over $52 million in the case though that was reduced to $15 million by a Court of Appeal panel in late 2012. The plaintiffs in today’s complaint assert that if it hadn’t been for that write-down the show wouldn’t have been calculated to have made $30 million and they wouldn’t have been liable to pay Johnson anything. The trio of media companies say that they repeatedly reminded Cox of its indemnity commitment as Johnson’s case made its way though the courts but the company refused to “provide either indemnification or a defense.” The plaintiffs say that not only caused them to have to pony up to DJP but cost them $8.3 million in legal fees and other costs. In seeking a 7-day jury trial, Rysher Entertainment, Qualia Capital and 2929 Entertainment not only want damages but an order from the court that Cox breached its obligations. Additionally, the trio wants indemnity for those legal fees, the $19 million judgment to Johnson’s company and “at least $20.7 million in additional damages for future revenues due to DJP.” At this point, Johnson’s initial case and its spinoff stand a good chance of lasting longer than the original five-year run of Nash Bridges itself
The plaintiffs are represented by Hollywood heavyweight attorney Patricia Glaser as well as Joel Klevens from LA firm Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro. Thomas Melsheimer and Scott Thomas of Dallas-based Fish & Richardson also represent the trio of companies.
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