In the latest chapter of the long-running dispute over The Walking Dead revenue, a New York judge granted AMC Networks’ motion seeking permission to file supplemental materials undercutting two lawsuits by CAA and Frank Darabont.
AMC attorneys had filed a motion in order to spell out what they say are inconsistencies between the initial complaint and a subsequent suit in January. At a 15-minute hearing this afternoon in New York Supreme Court, Judge Eileen Bernsten granted the motion, allowing both sides 20 days to submit up to 15 pages of additional material.
With The Walking Dead well on its way to becoming a massive, long-running hit after its first six episodes aired at the end of 2010, Darabont was fired as showrunner. He contends that he and CAA were cheated out of some $280 million in proceeds from his original work mounting the series.
Bernsten said she is eager to assess the effect the second lawsuit filed had on the initial case. “It could be significant, it could be nil,” she said. “But the court would appreciate a complete record.”
The judge also denied a motion by the plaintiffs for sanctions against the defense for causing delays in the four-year-old case. “An argument can be made that it is plaintiffs’ behavior – filing the second lawsuit – that caused delays,” she said, an additional action that she said has prompted “months of letter writing.” While Bernsten stopped short of saying definitively that the follow-on lawsuit was problematic, the defense has long framed it that way and vows to demonstrate inconsistencies between the first and second complaints at trial.
“Today’s ruling shows that the court is being thoughtful and meticulous in its handling of this case,” said Orin Snyder of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “We are eager to show the court that CAA, a company of Hollywood agents, is playing fast and loose with the facts. We look forward to our next day in court.”
Jerry Bernstein, an attorney with BlankRome who represents the plaintiffs, rejected the notion that the ruling was problematic for the Darabont and CAA. “It’s not a setback,” he told Deadline after the hearing. “The judge is being careful. She wanted to see everything before reaching her decision.”
Bernstein also waved away the idea of potential risk of having inconsistencies exposed between the two complaints. “They have already put their cards on the table,” he said of the defense. “There’s nothing there.”
A tentative hearing date of May 31 has been set, when Bernsten is expected to issue her next ruling.