Donald Bellisario today saw his claim to millions from CBS Studios and NCIS: Los Angeles take a legal body blow. A LA Superior Court judge ruled that the JAG and NCIS creator is not entitled to any money from CBS over the show. In a dense 12-page ruling, (Read it here) Judge Gregory Alarcon dismissed any financial claims Bellisario may have believed he was due to the spinoff under a 2006 agreement with CBS Studios.
Bellisario, who was let go from NCIS in 2007 after star Mark Harmon threatened to quit, sued CBS Studios last April over breach of contract and the covenant of good faith for profits from NCIS:LA. In his 2011 suit, the former producer claimed that under his 1992, 2002 and 2006 contracts with CBS Studios and its predecessors, he had a right of “first opportunity” “to participate creatively in economically in the development” of any “new spinoffs, sequels or remakes” of any series he had created for the studio as long as he worked on the original series for the first 2 seasons. CBS disagreed.
Today’s ruling, combined with a ruling last summer that rendered toothless Bellisario’s 2002 contract based on an 18-month statue of limitations, now really only leaves the 1992 agreement for the former producer to seek legal action. And Bellisario still might. As the ruling noted, “CBS does not point to any express contractual provisions showing that Bellisario intended to give up his first opportunity rights under the 1992 Term Deal.” It goes on to say, “contrary to CBS’ arguments, Plaintiff’s alternative allegations that NCIS:LA is a “generic spinoff” under the 2002 and 2006 Term Deals do not necessarily affect their allegations that NCIS:LA is a non-planted spinoff under the 1992 Term Deal.” That difference of spinoff interpretation may be where Bellisario has an option to re-focus his suit for the court to decide later. An October trial date is still sitting on the court schedule.