They would be on more stable legal footing if they just jumped in the surf off the coasts of America’s 50th state. After being in, then out, and then in again, CBS today is really back in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit over the Hawaii Five-O reboot. In a downtown hearing today, LA Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon denied the network’s latest bid to be let out of the case brought by talent agent George Litto. In his ruling on the summary judgment motion, Alarcon made no finding on the merits of the actual case, which is now set for a January 21, 2014 trial date. However, the judge did agree with Litto’s contention that CBS had clear knowledge of the partials rights that the talent agent held to the series in conjunction with creator Leonard Freeman’s estate. The agent to Freeman, Litto is seeking $10 million in punitive damages and a share of the profits from the rebooted show, which CBS brought back in 2010. “Once again, this is a procedural hearing, and we remain confident that we’ll prevail on the actual merits of the case at trial,” a CBS spokesperson told me after today’s hearing.
It’s been quite a road to get where CBS is now. In January of this year, Alarcon agreed with CBS’ then demurrer and removed the network from the suit Litto first filed in May 2012. But in July, Alarcon changed his mind and put CBS back in the lawsuit with Freeman’s heirs after the plaintiff assured the court that legal battle over Five-O was about money and not CBS’ ability to continue to produce the show. In September, Judge Elizabeth Allen White denied CBS’ effort to again get out of the case.
Litto claimed in his initial suit that the Freeman’s heirs and CBS keep him out of negotiations for the new Five-O. After Freeman’s 1974 death, Litto and the producer’s widow Rose came to an agreement that gave him substantial rights in connection with future versions of the series. Hawaii Five-O originally ran from 1968-1980.