EXCLUSIVE: More than a month and a half after being hit with a potential class-action lawsuit by a former intern on The Wendy Williams Show, Lionsgate today sought to put a damper on plaintiff Anthony Tart’s Thanksgiving. The company, which syndicates the daytime talker, wants the whole thing tossed. “Defendants respectfully request that the Complaint be dismissed in its entirety, with prejudice, and that the Court award Defendants the cost of their defense, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, and such other relief as the Court deems appropriate,” said Lionsgate’s answer to Tart’s initial October 3 compliant.
In fact, except admitting that Tart was an intern at WW Show in late 2012 and that he wasn’t paid, the 15-page response (read it here) pretty much rejects everything else about the plaintiff’s complaint. Well, Lionsgate Entertainment Corporation also admits that it is “a multimedia corporation that operates in the motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, and other entertainment industries” and that producers Debar-Mercury is a Lionsgate subsidiary. Otherwise this filing in NYC federal court by Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP lawyers Christopher Parlo and Sam Shaulson is a collection of “no response is required” and “defendants deny the allegations.” Unlike many other studios, Lionsgate does not offer any compensation to its interns.
As other interns have claimed in other cases in recent years, Tart says that he and others were made to work like full-time employees on the WW Show. In his class-action complaint, Tart claims he “performed various tasks, including but not limited to, washing dishes, getting coffee, picking up art supplies, stocking printers, throwing out garbage, and creating a tape library.” As well as not being paid for doing the work of a full-timer, the former intern also says he got no “educational or vocation training” during the two days a week he worked on Williams’ show from August to December 2012. Seeking a jury trial, Tart is suing for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, New York’s Minimum Wage Law and Wage Theft Law.
This case moves into its next stage as several other legal actions involving interns have either been settled or gone to mediation. Like Conde Nast more recently, NBCUniversal paid out millions last month to see its interns lawsuit end. ICM Partners’ interns suit is set to start mediation early next month. The long battle between the ex-Black Swan interns and Fox Searchlight continues to be before the courts – as obviously the Wendy Williams case is too.
Alison Genova, LaDonna Lusher and Lloyd Ambinder of NYC firm Virginia & Ambinder LLP is representing Tart, as are Jeffrey Brown and Daniel Markowitz of Leeds Brown Law PC. The firms were also the reps in the very short lived David Letterman intern lawsuit of September. Withdrawing her complaint a few days after filing it, the plaintiff in the Letterman case said that “lawsuit hungry” lawyers talked her into.