UPDATE, 2:36 PM: AMC hit CAA and Frank Darabont earlier today in a letter to the judge aiming to hit the pause button on the nearly $300 million The Walking Dead profit participation. Now the uber-agency and ex-showrunner of the zombie apocalypse series has hit right back and they want AMC to feel the hurt of sanctions.
“AMC’s written communication directly to Justice Bransten, while the Court is preparing to rule on Darabont’s dispositive motion, is both outrageous and manifestly improper,” said attorney Dale Kinsella of the correspondence that the cabler’s attorney Orin Snyder sent to the NY Supreme Court judge this afternoon. “Worse, it should be obvious from even a casual reading of the letter that AMC is desperately seeking to divert attention away from its wrongful conduct during the three years of discovery in the underlying Darabont action,” the Hollywood legal heavyweight adds, with implied reference to the new $10 million breach of contract complaint that his clients filed on January 18.
“When Justice Bransten takes up the question of what sanctions are appropriate for AMC’s deplorable conduct, it will be decided not on the basis of AMC’s hysterical 11th hour plea to halt the case, but on a fully developed record,” the Santa Monica-based Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert partner declares. And then in firebrand language that we have seen on both sides almost since Darabont and CAA sued AMC in 2013, Kinsella goes in to deliver a bloody nose to the other side: “Finally, AMC’s letter, written by its new counsel, reflects either a misunderstanding of the facts or a deliberate attempt to mislead the Court about the nature of the two separate actions. Darabont and CAA will be filing a further response to AMC’s frivolous letter in the days to come.”
PREVIOUSLY, 1:05 PM: The ever-escalating game of legal chicken over The Walking Dead gunned it again today with more pedal-to-the-metal over profits from the blockbuster AMC series.
In a letter sent Tuesday to a New York Supreme Court judge over a new lawsuit filed in the nearly $300 million battle, AMC accuses CAA and ex-TWD showrunner Frank Darabont of wreaking “even more havoc on these proceedings” and wants the case first filed by the uber-agency and Darabont in late 2013 stopped – at least for the time being.
“This Court should immediately halt proceedings in this case, rather than rule on the pending cross-motions for summary judgment,” AMC attorneys requested of Justice Eileen Bransten on Tuesday.
“Their new allegations are a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ strategy — no matter how this Court rules, they will attempt to retry the case all over again,” says Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn of the separate $10 million action that attorneys for The Shawshank Redemption director and CAA filed suddenly on January 18. “This is unfair. This is wrong,” the relatively new AMC lawyer adds bluntly in offering consolidation and ceasing as the only paths forward.
Dismissing the new “supposed discovery violations” suit last week from CAA and Darabont, AMC has backed off its first response of accusing the agency of greed and have now asserted that “it was Plaintiffs, not Defendants, that committed discovery violations.”
Having conducted an audit on the eight seasons-and-counting series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics from its 2010 debut up to 2014’s Season 5 with what they thought were documents unredacted to “all provisions of these agreements relevant to MAGR,” Darabont and CAA’s lawyers essentially said in the January 18 filing that found the smoking gun of sorts. “AMC improperly and egregiously redacted Kirkman’s agreement when it was produced to Plaintiffs in discovery in the prior pending action,” the plaintiffs allege in their new suit.
Not so, says AMC: Due to the fact that Kirkman is also a CAA client, it was the plaintiffs who should have produced the agreement, not the cable channel.
“For that reason alone, this Court should not go any further without considering how the new complaint bears on — and disrupts — the fair administration of justice in this case,” declares Snyder. Promising to file a formal motion sometime soon and desiring a hearing on the matter, AMC’s move could put the brakes on what is expected to be a long-awaited ruling soon on both sides’ summary judgment motions, which were argued last fall. With such a new round of litigation, filings, hearings and more, the over four-years-and-counting initial case could see a late 2018/early 2019 trial pushed back to the next decade.
“Plaintiffs’ new action introduces an entirely new theory about why Plaintiffs are entitled to more compensation under the contract,” the three-page letter from the much-sued AMC just filed today goes on to say. “This Court should recognize this maneuver for what it is — an outrageously unfair gambit to litigate this case twice, in a piecemeal and shotgun fashion, on potentially different (and conflicting) theories.”
This all became public record when Kirkman, fellow TWD executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert and former EPs Glen Mazzara and Charles Eglee sued AMC themselves last August over seemingly also being cheated out of contractually obligated Modified Adjusted Gross Receipts aka profit participation — which is what Darabont and CAA have been claiming since 2013. Along with those suits over license fees, Kirkman attached a relatively lightly redacted copy of his 2009 agreement with AMC – a version that had some significant differences to what the outlet more had handed over to CAA and the showrunner it had kicked to curb in 2011.
Reps for CAA and Darabont and their attorneys did not respond to request for comment from Deadline. The plaintiffs are represented by NYC’s Blank Rome LLP and Santa Monica’s Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.