This is a highly unusual situation because broadcast networks usually settle these kind of nasty ownership disputes behind-the-scenes. The crux of the lawsuit is that CBS is claiming that writer-producer Lukas Reiter developed the TV series based on John Grisham’s novel The Firm exclusively for its network. And CBS is claiming it never gave him permission to bring the Josh Lucas-starring project to NBC. So CBS filed suit today in Los Angeles Superior Court against Reiter, his production banner, and and Entertainment One — but not against NBC — alleging tortuous interference with contract, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Interestingly, we’ve learned that CBS hasn’t yet served or otherwise alerted E1 or Reiter’s counsel because the network didn’t want them to file a preemptive lawsuit today in New York where the law is a lot less favorable to the plaintiffs on these issues). The CBS strategy was to wait until the courts close here and then give them a heads-up. Cagey. We also hear that E1 executives were surprised by the suit as talks with CBS on the issues had been ongoing.

The current incarnation of the the project originated at E1, which took
Reiter’s spec pilot script out to several networks including NBC last May.
Lucas originally developed The Firm for CBS a couple of years ago, but it
didn’t go to pilot there. He then wrote a new version for E1 with John
Grisham’s involvement. Then in April, shortly before the upfronts, Sony Pictures Television Networks came on board to co-produce and distribute internationally. The series was sold to NBC with Paramount Pictures, which produced the 1993 movie, also on board as a co-producer. A few days later NBC announced the project as a midseason series scheduled to air on Sundays.