The legal fight between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont over proceeds from The Walking Dead has nearly reached the five-year mark. Today’s hearing in New York Supreme Court provided another opportunity for verbal sparring, but suggested that the case could continue for some time.
The parties met to debate the plaintiffs motion for a summary judgment from New York Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten. She ended the nearly 90-minute session by saying she would be mulling the issues, though she did not indicate when she planned to render a decision.
Darabont was the showrunner and part of the team of creators for the first season of The Walking Dead, but left the show after an impasse with the network. His lawsuit contends that he was cheated out of his rightful share. The delta is some $300 million and as the show continues to rack up ratings around the world, the meter is still running. Darabont’s attorneys earlier had asked for a summary judgment; if it were to be granted, damages would then be set. AMC prefers for a jury to determine the outcome.
“It is our strong view that plaintiffs have torpedoed their request for summary judgment,” said Orin Snyder, the lead attorney for AMC. He explained that by filing a second lawsuit over the show’s grosses (which the plaintiffs described as an effort to enforce its right to audit the company’s financial accounting of the show), Darabont and CAA contradicted themselves. In the first, older case, Snyder said, they have offered one method of calculating participation and in the newer case filed late last year, they offer a different one.
In his lengthy arguments, Snyder derided the plaintiffs contentions in the two cases as a “factual morass,” “chaos” and an “ungodly mess,” among other descriptions.
Jerry Bernstein, the lead attorney for Darabont, sharply disagreed, saying that AMC has “consistently mischaracterized” the two complaints in an effort to show inconsistencies. When Bernstein described the multiple versions of the ILF (imputed license fee) projection exchanged by the parties in an effort to resolve the contract, Judge Bransten asked if any of those versions wound up being signed by both parties, indicating official status. “No, none of them was signed,” he said. “We couldn’t agree. That’s why we’re here.”
Judge Bransten, who is retiring from the bench at the end of December (and therefore may not oversee a resolution to the case) grew restless toward the latter stages of the hearing. “This better be quick,” she told Bernstein, also chiding Snyder, “We have gone way beyond the request for summary judgment.”