Closing in on six years after it all started, the $300 million legal death match between fired The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont and CAA against AMC over profits from the zombie apocalypse series is finally going to trial.
A newly installed New York Supreme Court justice today declared the parties should prepare for a trial to commence May 11, 2020.
Taking over from now retired Justice Eileen Bransten, Justice Joel Cohen told lawyers for both sides at a hearing Tuesday he expects the trial to last about a month and jury selection to start May 4 next year. Cohen added that he is linking the other suit that the Shawshank Redemption directer and the uber-agency launched against the cabler in early 2018 on top of the initial late 2013 action.
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Both sides, of course, claimed victory for their respective crews.
“We are thrilled that Justice Cohen set a trial date, and we look forward to trying both the original self dealing case and additional audit claims before a jury,” said Chad Fitzgerald of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, the lawyers for Darabont and CAA.
“We look forward to our day in court and proving that this case is nothing more than a money grab by CAA and a gang of Hollywood lawyers who have already been paid millions and millions of dollars for their participation in The Walking Dead,” said AMC main attorney Orin Snyder after the hearing.
Of course, as this case has shown over and over with the long-awaited and parting summary judgment decisions by Bransten late last year, filings, terse correspondence and tense hearings, a lot can happen between now and May 2020.
Since Darabont, who was pink-slipped midway through Season 2, and CAA first went before the court over five years ago, the stakes, the fine print, AMC execs, the TV landscape and The Walking Dead itself has changed a lot. A not inconsiderable chunk of that was the sudden profit participation payouts in the millions in the summer of 2017 to principals like Darabont and comic creator Robert Kirkman.
Then there’s the fact that Kirkman, along with the likes of fellow EP Gale Anne Hurd and Darabont’s replacement as showrunner Glen Mazzara, who was fired himself after two seasons on the show, also sued AMC in August 2017 over millions in profits that they claim they were cheated out of. Add to that a $10 million suit that CAA and Darabont launched in January 2018 from an examination of the CAA-represented Kirkman’s own profit participation deal with AMC – a move that nearly sent AMC legally ballistic in what they consider a clear splash by the plaintiffs to muddy the already murky waters of the whole big-bucks matter.
Amidst all that, and today’s news of trial and jury dates, The Walking Dead franchise has grown with spinoffs, planned Rick Grimes movies and more. In the more immediate future, the successfully reset show returns for its Season 9 midseason premiere on February 10.
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