Heading towards its fifth year, the often legally bloody battle between Frank Darabont and CAA and AMC over profits from the very successful The Walking Dead has hit a rare moment of détente this long weekend.
As both sides await a long-delayed summary judgment ruling and subsequent blast radius from New York Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten on one suit, one of The Shawshank Redemption director’s lawyers says they are stepping back at bit on another lawsuit, for now.
“We write to inform you that the participants have entered into a stipulation limiting the claims in this action,” BlankRome’s Jerry Bernstein said in an unusually brief letter sent yesterday to Justice Bransten (read it here). Potentially removing a roadblock to the summary judgment ruling in the nearly $300 million action Darabont and his agency launched in December 2013, the one-page correspondence also aims to put out a thorn involving TWD comic creator Robert Kirkman that has been in AMC’s paw for months.
Already toiling away over the fine print and almost invisible ink of the dust-up over the possibly lucrative deal that was struck with Darabont when TWD premiered on the small screen in 2010, the cabler and their then newish lawyer Orin Snyder, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher went ballistic in January when Darabont and CAA hit them with a new $10 million lawsuit.
“The parties have agreed not to litigate the Kirkman MFN (“Most Favored Nation”) Claims in this action, and have entered into a tolling agreement to preserve the status quo as to Plaintiffs’ Kirkman MFN Claims,” the NYC-based Bernstein added on August 30, as an amended complaint was also filed with the court in this secondary case. “The parties met and conferred about the terms of a stipulation to avoid overlapping discovery between Kirkman’s lawsuit in Los Angeles and the Kirkman MFN Claims in this action,” the attorney stated, with the caveat that the claims could return down the line.
Now close to a year since summary judgment arguments were made in front of Justice Bransten, following a massive document dump by both sides and some checks in the million sent out by AMC from a new profits participation determination, the deal by both sides could open things up on the bigger picture.
Certainly, the $10 million second suit tore down any veil of decorum between AMC and CAA and Darabont, who was pink slipped just before the second season of what became the biggest show on TV for several years. Full of links and references to the previous case, Darabont’s attorneys at Blank Rome and Santa Monica’s Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP alleged in the new 2018 case that the “improper self-dealing” AMC “attempted to hide evidence related to its self-dealing from Plaintiffs during discovery in the pending litigation.”
The simmering gun is question in the matter on the zombie apocalypse series based on Kirkman’s comic is the early agreement that TWD EP Kirkman had with AMC, who himself and other executive producers are damningly now suing over profit participation too. “AMC improperly and egregiously redacted Kirkman’s agreement when it was produced to Plaintiffs in discovery in the prior pending action,” the filing said in an assertion that Darabont deserved the deal that the comic creator scored.
Since that January 18 move, with the pause button apparently hit soon afterwards by the soon to be retiring Bransten on the summary judgment, there have been verbal and paperwork grenades full of accusations of “wrongful” actions and “misleading” moves threats to seek sanctions and a bundle of hearings that didn’t seem to accomplish much. Depicting how personal this has all become, there have also been blows to Darabont personally, with emails by the EP from his TWD time portraying him as difficult, to put it mildly.
For now, the temperature has come down a bit – which isn’t a bad way to see out summer and see in the Andrew Lincoln exiting ninth season of TWD on October 7, when you think about it.