Seven years bad luck is what you usually get for breaking a mirror so looks like NBCUniversal has finally put the pieces together and outrun the curse – literally and figuratively. After more than 7 years of legal haunting and a near-trip to the Supreme Court, the media company seemingly has been freed of the Ghost Hunters lawsuit that claimed it lifted the idea for the flagship Syfy reality show. California’s 2nd Court of Appeals this week granted NBCU a summary judgment and said that parapsychologist Larry Montz and publicist Daena Smoller’s initial 2006 case hadn’t brought their claims within the applicable two-year statute of limitations. “In sum, the undisputed facts and the law established the right of petitioners to an order granting their motion for summary judgment,” said the April 1 order (read it here) by Judge Nora Margaret Manella. Now of course this isn’t totally over as Montz and Smoller could appeal again — though their chances of success at this point look dim.
The latest round in this dense and winding case saw SCOTUS reject a 2011 appeal by NBCUniversal to review a ruling from a lower court that had reinstated a complaint by Montz and Smoller claiming that Syfy stole the idea for its still-airing hit paranormal reality show. The duo alleged that Ghost Hunters, which premiered in 2004, was grafted together from material submitted by them in the late 1990s and early part of the last decade. Montz and Smoller lost their suit against NBCUniversal, Pilgrim Films & Television and others in district court on the issue of copyright, but then the action was surprisingly reinstated after an appeal on grounds of implied breach of contract. Spooked by that, NBCUniversal, with the backing of the MPAA and others, tried to get the Supreme Court to hear the case on the basis that federal copyright law trumped state contract law. SCOTUS turned it down in November 2011. Then Montz and Smoller started a new implied breach of contract lawsuit in December 2011. This funhouse got even scarier when producers Pilgrim and NBCU went after the original 2006 suit on the statute of limitations grounds that proved ultimately so successful for them this week.
Now there are the very scary attorneys’ bills to come. “Petitioners shall have their costs on appeal,” said the last line of this week’s order. Seven years — do the math.