If Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold thought Fox, WME, Peter Chernin and Elizabeth Meriwether were going to allow New Girl executive producer Meriwether to be stained with claims of having a “huge credibility problem” and accusations that she was ordered by the WGA to share writing credits, they had that fantasy shattered.
In a blistering response to the plaintiffs’ bid to stop the dismissal of an ongoing copyright lawsuit over who actually created the hit Fox comedy series, the defendants said Counts and Gold “have no evidence supporting their claim that Ms. Meriwether, or anyone else involved in the creation of New Girl, had access to their work and summary judgment should be granted on that basis.” More pointedly, in a September 4 filing (read it here) the defendants also politely called out Counts and Gold as liars for claims made in their August 31 response to a summary judgment motion.
“Plaintiffs attempt to distract the Court from their complete lack of evidence by falsely claiming that Ms. Meriwether lacks ‘credibility’ because she was ‘forced to share credit’ for a film as the result of a WGA arbitration,” said the reply from the defendants in the nearly 2-year-old case. “Of the many misstatements in Plaintiffs’ response, this is perhaps the most egregious, since it attempts to publicly impugn Ms. Meriwether’s reputation. There was no such claim, and no such arbitration. There is no evidence to support this fabrication – Plaintiffs’ counsel simply concocted it out of whole cloth. Ms. Meriwether did not take Plaintiffs’ work, and there was never a claim that she took anyone else’s either.”
The film in question under the alleged WGA arbitration is 2011’s No Strings Attached, which lists Mike Samonek as the story co-writer. (Unsurprisingly, the WGA would not comment on whether the arbitration occurred, as the guild tends to keep these things pretty close to the chest.) Samonek’s credit is based on a treatment he submitted to the pic’s producers, separate from Meriwether’s work.
Needless to say, the plenty peeved defendants still insist that Meriwether created New Girl, which debuted in 2011 and is coming back for a fifth season in the fall. They also assert that Meriwether never saw or heard anything about Counts and Gold’s Square One screenplay. Having been filed in January 2014, tossed in October 2014 and then refiled by Counts and Gold again this year, next up now in the case is a hearing September 21 that could see it dismissed again or move ahead.
Counts and Gold continue to allege a chain of events that had their Square One script ending up in the hands of pre-merger Endeavor agents who “widely circulated” it and through a convoluted process got it to Chernin and Meriwether. Their multi-claim complaint also says that Square One, which has a women moving in as the roommate to three men, has so many similarities with New Girl “that independent creation was obviously impossible.” In their amended complaint, Counts and Gold say that the first two versions of their script were specifically used for the New Girl pilot and the show’s first season.
Without reciting chapter and verse, Fox, WME, Chernin and Meriwether disagree – vehemently. To the extent of which they have now called out Counts and Gold of playing possibly fast and loose with the truth, expect the temperature in that September 21 hearing to be high.
David Aaron Grossman, Eric Schwartz and Jonathan Zavin of the NYC offices of Loeb & Loeb are representing Fox, Chernin and Meriwether. Michael Kump and Gregory Philip Korn of Santa Monica’s Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP are representing WME. Francis Malofly of Media, PA’s Francis Alexander LLC and Andrew T. Ryan of Century City’s Ryan Law PLC represent Counts and Gold.