EXCLUSIVE: There was no chance that Fox was going to respond with anything less than a bonecrusher to claims by Bones executive producer Barry Josephson, stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz and EP Kathleen Reichs that they had been cheated out of contractually obliged big bucks from the long-running procedural. Today, after having the names of now-Fox co-CEOs Gary Newman and Dana Walden directly dragged into the matter nearly two months ago, the broadcaster filed petitions in L.A. Superior Court to have the whole thing moved out of the courts, I’ve learned.
Although all the plaintiffs are sure to fight it, Fox wants both cases to be dealt with in private in arbitration. They also are seeking to have all proceedings stayed until their petitions are heard before Judge Richard E. Rico on March 2 and March 14 respectively.
“Having earned millions of dollars in compensation for providing his executive producer services on Defendants’ television series Bones (the “Series”), Barry Josephson brings a series of meritless claims in this Court in a naked attempt to attract headlines and extract millions more in undue compensation,” said caustically said the Fox petition Tuesday. The filing went on to cite provisions in both Josephson’s signed 2004 agreement and 2009 release that spelled out arbitration as the agreed upon method of conflict resolution between the parties if such a need should arise – as it has here.
“Although Plaintiffs are allegedly seeking to enforce the provisions of their contracts with Defendants, these Plaintiffs, like Josephson, blatantly ignored key dispute resolution provisions of the very contracts at issue – the provisions that clearly establish arbitration as the appropriate forum for deciding such claims. And, for the same reasons that this Court should grant the petition in the related action, it should grant this petition as well,” adds the petition aimed at Deschanel and Boreanez, who both serve as producers on Bones, and Reichs,
Likely putting a dagger into some of Fox’s Thanksgiving, Josephson brought the multimillion-dollar dispute out in public late last fall when he filed a jury-seeking breach-of-contract and fraudulent-inducement complaint. “Fox has repeatedly breached its agreement with Josephson by systematically depriving him of compensation to which he is contractually entitled and by failing to maximize its profits on the Series — all to the benefit of its parent company and the detriment of Josephson and the other profit participants on the Series,” the detailed filing claims.
Itemizing millions — that he and his lawyers at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP knew of — that had been left on the table, the Bones EP is seeking a pricey array of damages from 21st Century Fox Corp., Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox Entertainment Group. He also wants a full accounting of their alleged “unfair, unlawful, and/or fraudulent conduct.” Turning up the volume for the town, the complaint also detailed threats of cancellation of the hit show by Walden and Newman if the EP didn’t ink an agreement several seasons ago that saw a reduction in episodic license fees. Fox Network Group chief Peter Rice also makes less than flattering appearance in Josephson’s lawsuit uttering similar warnings.
If Josephson’s pulling back of the exec curtain wasn’t embarrassing enough for Fox, a very similar lawsuit by the Bones stars and EP Reichs followed on November 30. Deschanel, Boreanez, and Reichs, whose books Bones the show are based on, alleged in their joint eight-claim, jury-trial seeking complaint that they are owned “tens of millions of dollars” in profit participation.
Today was the deadline for the Fox defendants to respond to Josephson’s complaint, but they actually have until the end of the week to respond to the lawsuit from Deschanel, Boreanaz and Reichs.
In what has been termed as a related case to Josephson’s action by the courts late last year, and now yet again established as such by Fox’s duel petitions, John Berlinski, Mansi Shah and Candace Frazier of the LA office of Kasowitz Benson Torres and Friedman LLP represent Deschanel, Boreanaz and Reichs in their complaint. The Fox defendants are represented by a team from Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP led by Glenn Pomerantz. Having premiered on October 11, Season 11 of Bones is currently on winter hiatus and hasn’t broadcast an original episode since December 10. Meanwhile, Fox has yet to set a return date.