It’s not quite the blood and gore of the zombie apocalypse, but today the legal battle between AMC and original The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont and CAA got more a lot more biting. “Doubling down on their ill-conceived theory of the case, Plaintiffs now seek to use discovery to conduct a fishing expedition through the files of Defendants, a television network, two television studios, and a parent company, to obtain access to highly sensitive proprietary and confidential information that bears no relevance to Plaintiffs’ claims, including highly confidential and proprietary information relating to television shows other than the one at issue, The Walking Dead,” said AMC today in a scathing letter (read it here) to a NY Supreme Court judge. The letter is the latest salvo in the on-going case first filed by Darabont and CAA in a December 17 complaint. The plaintiffs allege that they were scammed out of contractually assured profits from the blockbuster series and that AMC played a “self-dealing” artificially low license-fee shell game with the show based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels. AMC, of course, says that’s not the case.
Of course, all that could become irrelevant or at least secondary very soon. “Contracts are not screenplays,” said AMC’s attorney Marc E. Kasowitz with some rhetorical flourish in this most recent letter. “The law does not permit them to be unilaterally rewritten simply because one party dislikes the ending. Yet, that is precisely what Plaintiffs seek in this action.” Once again rejecting Darabont and CAA’s contentions of self-dealing and low license fees in their original complaint last year, the cable station also revealed to no great surprise that they plan to file a motion for summary judgment for liability soon. AMC also let slip that they paid Darabont “close to $3 million” for his work on WD Seasons 1 & 2 before canning him from the show he developed back in late July 2011.
Related: AMC Greenlights Three Unscripted Series, Including Chris Hardwick’s ‘Celebrity Bowling’
While the case has been grinding through the courts and AMC replied to the claims with a terse 10-point reply in late February rejecting the complaint, today’s 9-page letter represents a new level of trench warfare between the parties. The letter comes as a response to a previous letter to Judge Eileen Bransten from the plaintiffs earlier this month seeking a conference over a disputed confidentiality order (read it here). The cable station today says it shouldn’t have to hand over any docs with info “about the total revenue from all programming -not just The Walking Dead -that AMC Channel receives from cable and satellite providers, documents concerning advertising revenues received by AMC Channel that Plaintiffs admit are expressly excluded from the calculation of any contingent compensation due them, license agreements regarding the television series such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and general ‘projections, business plans, profit and loss statements, Nielsen ratings, and forecasts’ of Defendants.”
That said, at their core of today’s correspondence is AMC’s objection to “two third-party attorneys whose knowledge of AMC’s highly confidential information would place AMC at an unfair and unjustified competitive disadvantage in future business negotiations.” Everything else concerning a protective order is worked out. The lawyers in question are Alan Wertheimer and Robert Getman of Jackoway, Tyreman, Wertheimer, Austen, Mandelbaum, Morris & Klein, who Darabont and CAA have brought on since filing their initial complaint. Having repped Darabont for years, Wertheimer has also handled legal matters for the likes of JJ Abrams while Getman has taken care of Boardwalk Empire creator and Wolf Of Wall Street scribe Terence Winter.
“Providing these individuals with access to AMC’s most sensitive financial and proprietary trade information would put AMC at a significant competitive disadvantage in any deal negotiations involving clients represented by Mr. Wertheimer and Mr. Getman,” said AMC today of the entertainment lawyers. AMC want confidential docs limited to just “litigation counsel and attorneys employed by the parties who are providing legal advice in connection with this case.” Darabont and CAA want all of their team to be able to take a look.
Judge Bransten could make a call on this by issuing a standard confidentiality order or by compelling the parties to reach a deal so discovery can move forward. Either way, at this rate, Season 5 of The Walking Dead could have come and gone before this case is resolved.
Kasowitz, Aaron Marks, John Berlinski and Mansi Shah of NYC firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP are representing AMC in the case. Darabont and CAA are represented by Jerry Bernstein and Harris Cogan of NYC firm Blank Rome LLP along with Dale Kinsella plus Aaron Liskin and Chad Fitzgerald of powerhouse Santa Monica firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kemp & Aldisert LLP.