AMC wants CAA to open up its files on a wide range of clients in the latest salvo in the legal battle between the entertainment company and former The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont and the agency over unpaid fees, self-dealing, gross receipts and other claims. Actually on this occasion Darabont is not really a player as it is his co-plaintiff that AMC is taking a hefty swipe at in a letter sent to this week to NY Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten (read it here). “Plaintiffs cannot have it both ways – to allege that Defendants breached industry custom and practice,but then refuse to produce the documents in their possession that speak directly to and disprove these allegations,” says the June 16 correspondence that asks the judge to order CAA to deliver the docs. AMC claims that CAA are ” insisting that the documents are confidential and the burdens associated with producing them are too high.”
This latest letter to the judge follows a June 5 ruling by the Judge to allow Darabont and CAA’s lawyers to look at licensing agreements AMC had with Sony over Breaking Bad and with Lionsgate over Mad Men, something the plaintiffs had desired and the broadcaster had resisted. Also, among other things, the judge ordered AMC to hand over all pertinent documents related to The Walking Dead’s finances to determine what came in and based on that what Darabont may be owed. With that in mind, this most recent letter follows the dug-in approach that both sides have adopted in the case first filed by Darabont and CAA in a December 17 complaint. The plaintiffs allege that they were tricked 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 says that’s not true. Earlier
in the case, when it was resisting handing over documents itself, AMC revealed that Darabont had been paid out nearly $3 million for his work on the first two seasons of WD before the producer was kicked off the show in late July 2011.In the letter of this week they say that both sides referred to additional compensation for Darabont as “Modified Adjusted Gross Receipts” in their agreements and documents – which is why they want these requested documents for their discovery process.
“These documents should be produced because they will reveal the truth about Plaintiffs’ allegations – that AMC Studios’ negotiations with Plaintiffs were not only done in good faith consistent with basic cable television industry standards,but that the MAGR definition resulting from these negotiations actually exceeded industry standards” (italics in original letter).
With that as its flag to fly, AMC specifically and strategically also wants CAA to hand over documents that show the kind of deals it makes for its clients including others from WD according to industry customs and practice. Walking Dead co-creator Kirkman as well as stars Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus are among those involved with the blockbuster zombie apocalypse series who are repped by CAA. “Defendants seek from Plaintiffs the MAGR definitions and related negotiating history for all Series participants, including those who did not join this lawsuit,”says the letter to the judge from AMC lawyers Marc E. Kasowitz, AaronH.Marks, John Berlinski and Mansi Shah of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP NYC and LA offices. “Defendants are entitled to discover correspondence reflecting whether they and Plaintiffs believe that AMC truly engaged in ‘bad faith’ negotiating tactics.”
With these jabs galore, its not like the two sides haven’t been trying to find a way to hand over documents for discovery in the grinding along case. But it doesn’t help, as past letters to Judge Bransten and this one reveal, that they have fundamentally different understandings of what is relevant. During the parties’ meet and confers, Defendants explained the relevance of these documents and asked Plaintiffs how they intended to prove their case without them,” says the 4-page letter. “Plaintiffs responded that they intended to produce the documents that they would use at trial but no others.Unfortunately,the law does not permit Plaintiffs to produce only those documents that support their allegations and fail to provide Defendants with the documents that refute those allegations and bolster their defenses.”
Let’s see if the Judge agrees and then let’s see how far this gets before the next season of Walking Dead kicks off in the fall.
Darabont and CAA are represented by Jerry Bernstein and Harris Cogan of NYC firm Blank Rome LLP along with Dale Kinsella plusChad Fitzgerald and Aaron Liskin of Santa Monica firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.