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Fired ‘Storage Wars’ Star Scores A Win Over A&E In Lawsuit

By | Tuesday September 3, 2013 @ 10:24am PDT

Dave Hester can move forward with the wrongful termination portion of his wide-ranging lawsuit against A&E and the producers of Storage Wars, a judge ruled today. In a hearing Tuesday in LA Superior Court, Judge Michael Johnson rejected the network’s free speech related attempt to dismiss the wrongful termination aspect of the former reality cast member’s nearly 10 month old legal action. Citing the First Amendment and California’s anti-SLAPP statute, A&E had argued that Hester’s suit would effectively hand him control over who they could put on the hit reality show. Johnson didn’t agree. “Plaintiff’s contract expressly states that Defendants had no obligation to use Plaintiff on the program during the term of their agreement. Plaintiff is suing to recover money, and not to inject himself into the program,” wrote Johnson in a tentative ruling issued before this morning’s hearing. Hester sued A&E and Storage Wars’ producers Original Productions back in December 2012. At the time he called the show a  staged “fraud on the public” and claimed he was suddenly kicked off  the storage locker auction series before the fourth season when he complained about their methods. Hester is seeking over $750,000 plus punitive damages that could add up to millions more. The judge today also rejected A&E’s motions to dismiss the punitive damages. … Read More »

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Fox Searchlight Scores Partial Win In ‘Black Swan’ Interns Lawsuit

Days after yet another round of filings in the Black Swan interns’ class action, Fox Searchlight and Fox Entertainment Group got some traction and some status quo out of the overseeing federal judge. The traction this week came out of Judge William Paley III granting (read the order here) the Fox companies’ June 25th request to limit the time period in which potential class action participants can be considered qualified to join the suit. Instead of stretching from September 28, 2008 to September 1, 2010 as originally granted on June 11, the qualifying period will now be from a much tighter January 18 to September 1, 2010. The case was modified down to less than nine months in range due to the three year statute of limitations and the fact that plaintiff Eden Antalik, didn’t join the initial September 2011 action by Black Swan interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt until an amended complaint was filed in late 2012. While Glatt and Footman worked on the 2010 Darren Aronofsky-directed film, Antalik was an unpaid intern in Fox Searchlight’s NYC corporate office. This order on August 26 could now see the number of people who can actually join the class action cut quite severely – which is a carving up the case that works for Fox.

Related: Fox Searchlight Requests Fast Appeal In ‘Black Swan’ Lawsuit
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Disney Sued For Harassment & Discrimination By ‘Muppets’ Editor

By | Wednesday June 5, 2013 @ 2:11pm PDT

A seasoned assistant film editor has filed a complaint of harassment, gender discrimination and wrongful termination against Walt Disney Pictures and Muppets movie editor James Thomas. “Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff, created a hostile work environment and treated Plaintiff differently because she was an Asian woman over age 40, and terminated Plaintiff’s employment because of her gender, race and family responsibilities and because she made good faith complaints and opposed Defendants’ unlawful conduct,” says the complaint (read it here) filed by Cecilia Hyoun’s lawyer on June 3 in LA Superior Court. “Defendants also falsely claimed that Plaintiff’s position was being eliminated, whereas in truth and in fact a subordinate male employee with vastly less experience than Plaintiff was promoted to her position,” adds the complaint of her June 1, 2011, dismissal from The Muppets. Hyoun is seeking compensatory damages to be determined by the court in a jury trial for her lost wages, sick pay, and vacation pay. Hyoun started work on The Muppets in the fall of 2010 and claims she even turned down another job at Paramount because she expected to be working on the film until November of 2011. Claiming that Thomas made negative comments about her race, the postproduction vet is also seeking punitive damages and mental and emotional distress damages as well as interest and legal … Read More »

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Lon Chaney Jr’s Heirs Sue Universal Over Merchandise And Royalties

By | Monday June 3, 2013 @ 7:50pm PDT

The heirs of Old Hollywood continue to want today’s studios to pay up. Legendary horror movie actor Lon Chaney Jr’s family today went after Universal in the courts for more than $1 million in damages. In a nine-page breach of contract and other claims complaint (read it here) filed Monday in LA Superior Court, Chaney Entertainment alleges that Universal Studios Licensing uses the Wolf Man and Mummy and Frankenstein actor’s likeness for merchandise and goods and services despite the fact that a representation agreement between the studio and the company expired on December 31, 2008. Although he played Lennie Small in 1939′s Of Mice and Men adaptation alongside Burgess Meredith, Chaney was best known for his performances in a series of Universal monster movies in the 1930s and 1940s. After his death in 1973, his heirs and their corporate entity entered into a number of agreements with Universal over the rights to his image and his film work. Seeking a 5-day jury trial, the complaint filed today also claims that Universal Home Video has not properly paid the Chaneys for the use of the long-deceased actor’s image or voice-over in licensed film clips. Read More »

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Merchant Ivory & Criterion’s Janus Films Settle Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

By | Thursday May 30, 2013 @ 1:08pm PDT

Room With A View filmmakers Merchant Ivory and Janus Films have come to a deal in the production company’s legal action against the Criterion Collection distributers. While no details of the settlement were made public, a federal judge in New York signed off Wednesday on the dismissal (read it here) of the case jointly requested by all parties. Because the dismissal is with prejudice, each party is paying its own legal costs. Merchant Ivory filed suit against Janus last August claiming that the company was distributing 25 of its films despite the fact that licensing agreements for those films had expired. Requesting a jury trial, Merchant Ivory asked the court to halt any further distribution by Janus. The James Ivory co-founded company also sought statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringement as well any profits Janus many have made from the films in question, any losses it might have incurred in not being able to distribute them plus legal fees. Added to the legal mix was HanWay Films, with whom Janus had inked a 15-year extension of the licensing deals under the premise that they were an authorized sales agent of Merchant Ivory. The company said that in fact, HanWay was not authorized by them in any way though the two had discussed a marketing deal that never materialized. After the initial … Read More »

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Nicollette Sheridan Gets New ‘Desperate Housewives’ Trial

By | Monday April 22, 2013 @ 11:22am PDT

Over a year after Nicollette Sheridan saw her wrongful termination suit against Desperate Housewives ended in a mistrial, the actress today got a new trial date. Sheridan and defendants Touchstone Television will be back in court on December 2, LA Superior Court judge Michael Stern ruled today. Stern’s ruling came after denying a motion by the defendants to have the case dismissed. Sheridan’s lawyers filed an amended complaint for their client under a section of the California Labor Code that is designed to protect employees from losing their jobs if they make a complaint about workplace safety. This amended complaint follows a three-judge appeals court panel ruling last August that Sheridan could pursue claims that she was retaliated against after complaining that creator Marc Cherry struck her in the head during an on-set argument in September 2008. The lawsuit over Sheridan’s original claims that her Housewives character Edie Britt was suddenly killed off in early 2009 and she was wrongfully fired from her starring role on the ABC drama resulted in a deadlocked jury on March 19th of last year. That trial saw ABC executives past and present as well as Sheridan and Cherry among others take the stand. Cherry and ABC always insisted the departure of the character and the actress had been decided months before the hitting incident, which the producer has … Read More »

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Luber Roklin Takes Ex-Employee To Court Over Unpaid Client Commissions

By | Wednesday February 6, 2013 @ 5:17pm PST

Luber Roklin Entertainment today sued Stephen Crawford for allegedly telling his clients not to pay commissions to his former employer once he moved to a new firm. In the three-claims complaint (read it here) the management company says that the trouble started when Crawford left LRE after five years on March 31, 2012 and joined Industry Entertainment as a manager. With his move, Crawford took his clients such as Jon Herman, Tiffany Paulsen, Adam Minarovich, David DiGilio, Adam Kane and John P. Lavin with him. Soon afterward, all of them ceased paying their 10% commissions to LRE. “If the LRE Clients were to terminate the management relationship with LRE, then LRE would continue to be entitled to a ten percent commission on all deals entered into or negotiated while they were LRE clients.  All amounts owed under the LRE Clients’ agreements with LRE were to be paid directly to LRE, not to Crawford or any other individual manager.  Although these agreements were not memorialized in writing, the terms as detailed herein were ratified through the parties’ course of conduct,” says the complaint. LRE is seeking unspecified damages and a full accounting from Crawford in its demand for a three-day jury trial. LRE is represented by Jordan Susman of LA firm Freedman & Taitelman

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Steven Tyler’s Lawyer Wins ‘American Idol’ Suit With Singer’s Former Managers

By | Friday February 1, 2013 @ 12:15pm PST

A Superior Court judge today formally dismissed most of an $8 million lawsuit against Steven Tyler’s lawyer by the former American Idol judge’s former managers. Kovac Media Group/Tenth Street Entertainment had claimed in their suit filed back in October that attorney Dina LaPolt has played both sides and had messed up Tyler’s contract renegotiations with the Fox show in 2011. Judge Joseph Kalin this morning in a conference case management hearing declared that the defense’s invoking of anti-SLAPP statutes and the First Amendment did protect the lawyer. Kovac alleged LaPolt’s mishandling of their “hot commodity” cost Tyler a $6 million to $8 million raise in his Idol contract for a second season on the show. Tyler announced he was leaving Idol in July 2012. Today’s ruling was not unexpected as the Judge has previously staked out the position in a tentative ruling. That doesn’t mean it’s completely over. Read More »

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A&E Says Former ‘Storage Wars’ Star’s Lawsuit “Meritless”

By | Monday January 28, 2013 @ 4:44pm PST

A&E says that it isn’t Storage Wars that’s fake but the lawsuit from Dave Hester. A month and a half after Hester called the hit reality series a staged “fraud on the public and filed suit against the network and Storage Wars producers for more than $750,000, A&E fired back late last week. And they made their response (read it here) almost all about the money and free speech. “Original and AETN opposed Hester’s demands for more favorable contract terms, and he was notified that his participation was no longer needed in the Program. Hester then filed this lawsuit against AETN and Original. In a transparent attempt to distract from the issues – and maximize any potential recovery – Plaintiffs’ Complaint tries to convert a garden-variety breach of contract claim into a tabloid-worthy drama, in which Hester portrays himself as a crusading whistleblower. But setting aside the notable inconsistencies in his exaggerated self-portrait, the law does not permit such sophistry,” says the response A&E filed in LA Superior Court on January 24. Using Anti-SLAPP laws and First Amendment free speech guarantees as blunt objects, A&E goes on to say that Hester’s’ Unfair Business Practices cause of action is “meritless” and it wants the court to strip it from his suit.

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WME Ends $1.95M Tommy Lee Jones Legal Face-Off

By | Thursday January 24, 2013 @ 3:33pm PST

Maybe the movie should have been called ‘No Courtroom For Old Men’. WME has pulled the plug on its legal efforts to get Tommy Lee Jones to pay up nearly $2 million in owed commissions. The California State Labor Commissioner ruled last October that Jones owes the agency $1.95 million from his role in No Country For Old Men. Money that WME was actively pursing through the courts. However, earlier this month, WME filed a request for dismissal with prejudice (read it here) of its October 31 petition to get the money from the Oscar winner. Though this kind of legal maneuver indicates a deal was struck, no details of a settlement between the parties were made available. The LA Superior Court approved WME’s request on Tuesday, effectively ending the matter.

This case actually started out several years ago as a battle against Paramount over Jones’ back-end compensation for No Country. The actor was eventually awarded $15 million in that action. The $1.95 million is WME’s 10% commission on that award plus interest. Part of the October 1 ruling by the Labor Commissioner was to deny the actor’s request to bar the agency’s recovery of those commissions as well to affirm that WME did support Jones in his multi-million-dollar battle with Paramount. Jones appealed the Read More »

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Paramount Settles $375 Million Suit With Financiers Melrose 2

By | Sunday January 13, 2013 @ 4:30pm PST

Paramount Pictures and Melrose 2 have come to a settlement in the $375 million fraud lawsuit the investors had with the studio. “The dispute was satisfactorily resolved,” a Paramount spokesman told Deadline today. No details of the settlement were made public in court filings Friday but Paramout intends to seek a full dismissal of the case. Melrose 2, also known as Melrose Investors 2, sued the studio in November 2011 seeking to recover profits from its nearly $375 million investment in 29 films produced by Paramount and DW Studios, formerly known as DreamWorks and then part of Paramount. The investors claimed that they had not received any profits from the deal over movies that made more that $7 billion The movies in question included Mission Impossible 3Charlotte’s WebDreamgirlsFlags of Our Fathers and all three Transformers films, among others. Soon afterwards Paramount said that they were “disappointed that these sophisticated investors would choose to file a lawsuit filled with hyperbole that ignores the true facts rather than seeing that process through to completion” The studio added, “the Melrose 2 investors have already received almost 90% of their investment back under the financing agreement, and a number of the films in which they participate (such as the successful Transformers 3) remain in the earliest stages of their earning potential.” Last July, Judge Michael Linfield trimmed the breach of … Read More »

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CBS Unhooked From ‘Hawaii Five-O’ Lawsuit

By | Tuesday January 8, 2013 @ 3:48pm PST

CBS won’t be getting caught up in the rough currents of a Hawaii Five-O lawsuit after all. Monday the network was released from a lawsuit filed in May by the agent of Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman. “Defendant CBS Studios Inc.’s, erroneously sued as CBS Television Network, (“CBS”) Demurrer is sustained without leave to amend,” wrote LA Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon in his tentative ruling (read it here) made final Monday. While the network could be pulled back into the case on appeal, they are out of the case for now. “We appreciate the court’s ruling and are pleased that it brings an appropriate conclusion to our involvement in this lawsuit,” said a CBS spokesman today. Though many of his claims were substantiated, it was time that worked against Freeman’s former agent George Litto  - specifically how long it took Litto to file his $10 million suit against the Freeman heirs and adding CBS to the complaint last fall. Litto contended in his suit that the heirs and CBS shut him out of 2010 negotiations for the reboot of the original series that ran from 1968 to 1980.  After the 1974 death of Freeman, Litto and the producer’s widow Rose came to an agreement that gave him substantial rights in connection with future versions of the series.
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UPDATE: Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Lawsuit Against DMV Gets Trial Date

By | Monday January 7, 2013 @ 11:22am PST

UPDATE, 11:21 AM: Judge Michael Johnson today issued a final ruling denying the state’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit from Ashton Kutcher’s production company against the California DMV. A trial date has been set for June 8. Katalyst Media and Soda and Pop Inc. filed the suit on June 19, alleging that the DMV dropped out of a reality series the Two And A Half Men star’s company was developing.

PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY PM: Ashton Kutcher’s production company’s lawsuit against the California DMV for dropping out of a reality series moved one tentative step in the actor’s favor today. Judge Michael Johnson issued a tentative ruling Friday denying the state’s request to dismiss the breach of contract and promissory estoppel suit. Read More »

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CBS, Sony & Relativity Sued Over Stealing Idea For ‘The Talk’

By | Monday October 22, 2012 @ 8:08pm PDT

Author Angela Wilder has sued the network, the companies and some head executives alleging that her idea for a talk show based on motherhood was the real inspiration for the CBS daytime series. “It’s one thing to get sued over a project that was pitched to us, but quite a stretch to be sued over a pitch that was made to somebody else. Ms. Wilder’s alleged offering to Sony played absolutely no part in the creation of The Talk. We’ll vigorously defend this case and expect to prevail,” said CBS today. Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Sheryl Underwood, Aisha Tyler and Big Brother host Julie Chen co-host the CBS Television Studios and RelativityREAL produced show. CBS has always said that The Talk, which debuted in October 2010, is based on an idea by Gilbert. The Powerful Mate Syndrome author obviously disagrees. However, as made clear from the seven-count suit she filed on October 17, Wilder never actually met with anyone from either CBS or Relativity – though both are named among the defendants.
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Lawyer Cost Steven Tyler A Big Pay Raise For ‘American Idol’, Suit Claims

By | Thursday October 11, 2012 @ 6:19pm PDT

American IdolThe Aerosmith lead singer’s former manager says lawyer Dina LaPolt poisoned Steven Tyler’s contract renegotiations with American Idol, costing him a multimillion-dollar raise. Kovac Media Group/Tenth Street Entertainment today filed an $8 million lawsuit (read it here) against the entertainment lawyer and her West Hollywood firm. American Idol and its former judge are not named as defendants in the breach of fiduciary duty complaint. In fact Tyler is not named at all. Instead he is referred to as “The Artist” throughout the filing, though it is pretty clear from the players, his membership in a band and his role as judge for two seasons on the Fox show exactly who he is. The suit claims that in 2011 LaPolt lost “hot commodity” Tyler a $6 million to $8 million raise in his Idol contract for a second season on the show.

Related: Steven Tyler Departing ‘American Idol’ Read More »

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Don Johnson’s ‘Nash Bridges’ Verdict Upheld But Cut By Millions

By | Monday October 1, 2012 @ 4:34pm PDT

The former Miami Vice star will still be getting money from the profits of Nash Bridges, just not the $50 million he was awarded over two years ago. “We have affirmed the $15 million damage award plus 10 percent interest on that sum from July 12, 2010,” wrote judge P.J. Turner today (read the ruling here). A three judge 2nd District Court of Appeal found 2-1 in the actor’s favor over Rysher Entertainment, the production company behind the  show. Starring Johnson in the title role, Nash Bridges ran from 1996 to 2001 on CBS. In 2010, Johnson was awarded 50% of Nash Bridges copyright, entitling him to syndication rights on the series, after he sued Rysher, the production company’s past owners 2929 Entertainment and current owners Qualia Capital for not living up to the contract he had with them on the show. As well the actor was awarded $23.2 million plus interest as a verdict. It’s that financial verdict that was at the heart of today’s ruling. That $23.2 million figure was determined by the jury in the 2010 case, who added $8.2 million in interest from 2001 to 2010 to the $15 million already established Johnson would be awarded. The judge added further interest of $27 after the two-week 2010 trial bringing Johnson’s total to over $50 million. Rysher attempted to use this initiative on the jury’s part and the judge to claim juror misconduct and … Read More »

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Fox, Warner Bros & David Hudgins Get ‘Past Life’ Copyright Suit Dismissed

By | Friday September 28, 2012 @ 1:08pm PDT

A New York judge has tossed the yearlong legal action around the short-lived paranormal crime series. “The Court finds that no discerning observer would conclude that Past Life had appropriated protected elements from Transience,” wrote Judge Barbara Jones yesterday (read ruling here). Transience writer Stevan Mena sued Fox Entertainment, Warner Bros Entertainment as well as producers David Hudgins and Craig Perry for copyright infringement last August. Produced by Warner Bros Television, Past Life debuted on February 9, 2010. With low ratings, Fox cancelled the show after three episodes. The screenwriter claimed that significant elements of the TV series were drawn from the script he wrote back in 2008. For instance, both do feature reincarnation, a child who has visions and is taken care of by a doctor and crime. However the judge ruled that there’s nothing unique about such story devices. Mena contends that his feature script made its way to Past Life creator Hudgins via Practical Pictures’ Perry and was the basis for the show. Read More »

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Fox & Dish Await Autohop Injunction Decision From Court

By | Friday September 21, 2012 @ 7:06pm PDT

Despite its best legal efforts today, Fox didn’t get a judge to shut down Dish Network’s ad-skipping Autohop and Primetime Anytime features. After hearing arguments from both sides, federal Judge Dolly Gee said she would take the broadcaster’s preliminary injunction request under consideration. A decision could come anytime starting next week. For Fox, that injunction cannot come soon enough. “This is going to grow like a brush fire if it is not stopped,” said Fox lawyer Richard Stone to the court today. Introduced in May by Dish, AutoHop allows subscribers to leap past commercials in programs that have been recorded off network TV the day before. CBS, NBC and Fox have all filed copyright infringement suits against Dish to get the service stopped. Twentieth Century Fox Films Corp. and Fox Television Holdings’ lawyer argued in documents filed on August 22 (read it here) that the product is in “violation of the express terms and conditions of its contracts with Fox and federal copyright law.”

RELATED: Broadcasters Cleared To Challenge Dish Networks’ Ad-Zipping DVR In California

Dish lawyers contend that part of the issue is Fox and other broadcasters are resisting new technology just the way the VCR and later the DVR were initially resisted by the industry.  “The question is it somehow unlawful to do something to make it easier for the consumer?” said Annette Hurst. “You can’t come in here and take away the rights consumers have had for … Read More »

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Fox Seeks To Stop ‘Black Swan’ Intern Suit From Expanding

By | Thursday September 20, 2012 @ 6:01pm PDT

Alex Footman and Eric Glatt should not be allowed to enlarge their class action suit to include all Fox Entertainment Group interns, says Fox Searchlight. In a 24-page memorandum filed Wednesday in New York federal court (read it here), the studio claims that the request the former Black Swan interns’ made last month is speculative and not even plausible. Fox Searchlight did concede that former intern Eden Antalik could serve as a rep for interns in its NYC office. They did not do the same for Kanene Gratts, who served as an intern on (500) Days of Summer back in early 2008 in LA. Fox, who co-produced that film, claims that Gratts is time-barred under California law, which has a four-year statute of limitations. Read More »

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