ABC and ABC Family discovered today that they must face the courts over whether they stole the idea for a 2011 Christmas movie from two veteran producers. A LA Superior Court judge today rejected an effort by the two companies and other defendants to legally eviscerate the complaint Beth Grossbard and Barri Rosenblum filed in January claiming their I Hate Christmas idea was lifted for the ABC Family movie 12 Dates Of Christmas. Judge Ruth Ann Kwan ruled against most of the demurrer (read it here) the defense introduced in late February. Kwan ordered that the claims of breach of confidence and accounting could stand from the initial complaint, but she did instruct Grossbard and Rosenblum’s lawyers to amend their breach of contract suit in regard to the claim of constructive trust. Once that is done, the process of discovery will begin in the case — which means it is still a ways off from reaching a jury as the plaintiffs’ have requested.
As I reported in January, the two seasoned producers say that they and I Hate Christmas writer Denise Gruska met with then-ABC Family Director of Development Beth Miller and ABC Family VP Original Programming Donna Ebbs on December 13, 2005, at the company’s Burbank offices in a pitch meeting for their TV movie. Though everyone supposedly made nice, their idea eventually wasn’t picked up. However, when they saw 12 Dates Of Christmas in December 2011 on ABC Family, the duo felt there had been a “brazen theft,” as their complaint states, of many elements of their movie. Besides the plot and other similarities, what also fueled the producers’ outrage was that 12 Dates Of Christmas was executive produced by Miller, who had left ABC since the 2005 meeting. Disney was a defendant in the original complaint but has since been dismissed from the case with prejudice.
Grossband and Rosenblum are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from ABC, ABC Family and Miller. Vincent Cox, Louis Petrich and Robert Gutierrez of LA firm Leopold Petrich and Smith represents the defendants. Attorney Stephen Goldberg represents Grossbard and Rosenblum.