More than two months after former union president Ed Asner and over a dozen others filed suit claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals, SAG-AFTRA today took formal aim at their case. In motions filed Wednesday in federal court (read it here), SAG-AFTRA argues that most of the suit should be dismissed. “What plaintiffs fail to mention in the 52 pages of their complaint is that much of the challenges they raise to SAG-AFTRA’s residuals collection and distribution programs has already been resolved in a judicially approved settlement of virtually identical allegations in a class action lawsuit,” says the nearly 30-page filing. “The instant lawsuit is a virtual verbatim restatement of the settled Osmond litigation,” it adds. That 2007 action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and other actors was resolved back in 2010. They had accused SAG at the time of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties.
This response today comes as the union embarks on its first national election since merging in the spring of 2012. Asner, who was SAG leader from 1981-1985, was among those opposed to the merger. While he lost that battle, the former Mary Tyler Moore star and others filed their complaint on the residuals issue on May 25. Requesting a jury trial, Asner and the other plaintiffs were seeking unspecified damages as well as injunctive relief and an order by the court that would stop the union from being able to collect overseas royalties. As well, their suit proposed a separate “independent body” be established to handle the overseas funds from now on. At the time, SAG-AFTRA responded by calling it “completely without merit.” In the time that’s past since late May, the union hasn’t changed its tune it seems. “To enliven this relic, Plaintiffs have grafted onto their complaint florid and disconnected allegations that have no relevance to their asserted causes of action they rely on events that occurred many years ago; and they purport to speak for people not named in their Complaint who they have no legal right to represent. For these and other reasons stated in this Motion, the Court should dismiss the bulk of the Complaint as to all Plaintiffs.” SAG-AFTRA’s lawyers have asked for an October 7 hearing on the matter. Robert A. Bush, Jason Wojciechowski, Ira Gottlieb and Julie Gutman Dickinson of Glendale firm Bush Gottlieb Singer Lopez Kohanski Adelstein & Dickinsonare representing the union in the case.
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