Unless they want to take it to the Supreme Court, it looks like Disney has run out of legal lifelines and will have to pay up in the $319 million Who Wants To Be A Millionaire case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday unanimously rejected a petition by the company for a new trial against Millionaire creator Celador International, which in 2010 was awarded damages by a jury who agreed with the UK company that Disney breached the contract between Celador and it own TV divisions. “The panel votes to deny the petition for rehearing en banc…The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc,” said the brief order (read it here) issued this week.
The unanimous vote and the fact no other judge on the court was interested in a vote on the case does not bode well for Disney overturning the multimillion-dollar July 2010 verdict against it further up the legal food chain.
This week’s order comes nearly three months after a three-judge 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel on December 3, 2012 rejected efforts of “the Disney affiliates” — ABC, Buena Vista TV and Valleycrest Productions — to appeal U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips’ initial December 2010 denial of an appeal in the case. In addition the original $269 million in damages awarded in 2010, the jury agreed that Disney had engaged in sleight-of-hand deals to deny the creators of the international franchise their fair share of profits from the hugely successful U.S. version of the game show. Phillips added $50 million in pre-judgment interest. The Riverside-based trial saw Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger, former NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman and cast of former Disney execs and WMA agents take the stand.
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