Bones returned television for its penultimate season last week, but a profit participation lawsuit by EPs and stars of the Fox drama will be staying out of sight after all. An L.A. Superior Court judge jumped his own schedule and ruled mainly in favor of Fox’s desire for arbitration in the legal moves by EP Barry Josephson, stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz and EP Kathleen Reichs.
“The court finds that the arbitrable claims are inextricably bound with the non-arbitrable claims, necessitating a stay,” wrote Judge Richard Rico in his April 8 order that was delivered to lawyers on both sides late last week (read it here). “The motion to compel arbitration is granted and stayed as to the non-arbitrable claims as mentioned above.”
So, even while more of the Bones EPs and stars’ multimillion-dollar claims are staying in court rather than are going to arbitration, the whole thing is on pause as the self-dealing issues go behind closed doors. Which means don’t expect to hear much more until reps for the Bones side and Fox lawyers return to court for a status conference on October 3.
Rico’s ruling seemed to catch the attorneys by surprise as he said in an April 4 hearing on Fox’s motion in the nearly five-month-old case that he wouldn’t have a decision until May 4. Guess he wanted to get that date and the matter off his calendar faster.
Josephson said in his wide-ranging breach of contract and fraudulent inducement complaint filed November 25 that the “unrelenting” and “underreporting” 20th Century Fox Corporation, Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox Entertainment Group had ripped him off millions over Bones’ multi-season run. “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 EP’s complaint alleged.
On November 30, stars Deschanel, Boreanaz and EP Reich — whose books the series is based on — threw into the courts their own suit against the Fox plaintiffs. Like EP Josephson, the actor/producers and Reich allege that they were “cheated out of more than $100 million in gross revenues and being overcharged many additional millions of dollars in alleged expenses.”
In mid-January, Fox struck back with the very common Hollywood fine-print contention that both cases should be pulled out of the courts and moved to arbitration. Calling Josephson’s complaint a “naked attempt to attract headlines and extract millions more in undue compensation,” the defendants said clauses in the respective contracts compelled private arbitration as the venue for such a dispute. In late February, the plaintiffs replied that Fox’s petition was sliding round the issue and talking about the wrong agreement and the wrong conditions.
Rico didn’t see it that way. The judge went with Fox’s aim to “compel arbitration and stay the instant proceeding on the grounds that various written agreement exists providing for arbitration of the controversies that may arise between the parties.” Lawyers for both sides did not respond to requests for comment.
Dale Kinsella, Chad Fitzgerald and Aaron Liskin are representing Josephson and his Wark Entertainment. Deschanel, Boreanaz and Reichs are represented by John Berlinski, Mansi Shah and Candace Frazier of the LA office of Kasowitz Benson Torres and Friedman LLP. The Fox defendants are represented by attorneys from Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP led by Glenn Pomerantz.