(UPDATED WITH STATEMENT FROM BYRON ALLEN) EXCLUSIVE: It might not be entirely over, but Comcast can take some relief in the ruling today to dismiss the $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit from the Byron Allen-founded Entertainment Studios Network and the National Association of African-American Owned Media. This latest amended complaint from the plaintiffs was given the boot Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr. – but Allen and NAAAOM have one more chance in the more-than-a year-long suit to make their case.
“Plaintiffs have not sufficiently pled facts that make a plausible claim for relief,” Judge Terry Hatter Jr said today in a three-page order (read it here) on Comcast’s motion to dismiss from October. “Accordingly, this case will be dismissed with leave to amend one last time. If Plaintiffs file a second amended complaint with pleading deficiencies, this case will then be dismissed with prejudice.” Allen’s company and NAAAOM have 30-days to file another amended complaint.
Neither Comcast nor Allen’s reps responded to request for comment by Deadline today. The core of Entertainment Studios and the NAAAOM’s suit against Comcast is that the cable behemoth discriminates against totally African-American-owned media companies and deny them carriage placement. Allen and NAAAOM have a similar $10 billion suit against the Federal Communications Commission and Charter Communications – that ongoing case was filed in late January this year. Allen and NAAAOM have had some success in its legal pursuits. Late last year, they got a carriage deal out of AT&T and DirecTV as part of ending that $10 billion discrimination suit.
The motion granted today in this matter was the media giant and NBCUniversal owner’s latest attempt to get the case dropped. With Time Warner Cable, Al Sharpton and the NAACP also named as defendants along with Comcast, the case originally was filed on February 23, 2015 then dismissed by Judge Hatter Jr. on August 7 last year.
In a surprise to many, the federal judge revived it on August 19. No longer merging with Comcast, TWC was dismissed as a defendant from the case last fall. MSNBC host Sharpton and his National Action Network were dropped from the matter in last September, as were the NAACP and the Urban League.
Comcast is represented by attorneys from Gibson Dunn and Crutcher LLP. Louis “Skip” Miller’s Miller Barondess LLP is representing ESN and NAAAOM in the case.
(7 PM, STATEMENT FROM BYRON ALLEN: “This was a dismissal with leave to amend, not a dismissal with prejudice, which means that the case is very much alive,” said Byron Allen in a contentious statement late Tuesday. “This is a common occurrence in the court system. We will be filing our amended complaint shortly. If Judge Hatter gets this wrong because he will not allow any hearings to truly understand the complexity of this complaint, we will vigorously pursue this case with an appeal all the way to the 9th Circuit, or the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. This is an historic case which will finally start the process for true economic inclusion for African-Americans. This is too important, and we will never stop fighting until this goal has been achieved.”)