(UPDATED with AMC attorney statement) Charlie Collier is leaving AMC for a corner suite at New Fox ASAP and Andrew Lincoln is exiting The Walking Dead in the next couple of weeks but the nearly five-year legal all-out war between the cabler and Frank Darabont and CAA over profits from the zombie apocalypse series is going strong – as a letter in New York Supreme Court today made very clear, again.
“This lawsuit is not about the scope of Plaintiffs’ ‘audit rights’—it is about remedying Defendants’ wrongful accounting practices that have caused Plaintiffs tens of millions of dollars in damages,” says a three page letter Monday from BlankRome’s Jerry Bernstein on where things stand and where they don’t in the consolidated cases of 2013 and earlier this year.
“We have met and conferred in good faith with Defendants’ counsel on two occasions to the resolve the disputes described here,” the NYC-based Bernstein notes of his rival counsel Orin Snyder and his colleagues at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Centered on the since somewhat walked back $10 million suit that hit the docket in January 2018 over the profits deal that TWD creator Robert Kirkman had with AMC over the series, the correspondence (read it here) details an “in-person meeting on October 1, 2018 at Defendants’ counsel’s office, and a telephone conference on October 11, 2018.” It then goes on to shatter any shiny happy people notion by adding “although the parties cooperatively resolved many issues, the parties remain unable to resolve the two issues described below. Plaintiffs now seek the Court’s intervention.”
Essentially, blocked in their discovery desires BlankRome and the West Coast-based Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert lawyers for the ex-TWD showrunner and CAA claim that AMC is withholding vital production cost reports and profit participation documents related to the 2010 debuting series based on EP Kirkman’s comics. Jacking up the volume on the discovery process, CAA and Darabont’s legal team want part of the already scheduled October 30 compliance conference before soon to retire Justice Eileen Bransten to address the pre-motion letter and force AMC to hand over the goods, so to speak.
“This is a routine and minor discovery issue in the second lawsuit dealing with audit claims and an overreach by plaintiffs seeking documents to which they aren’t entitled,” Synder told Deadline this evening. “We look forward to the court’s assistance in resolving it.”
Which is kind of what CAA and Darabont’s side want, kind of.
“If Plaintiffs cannot verify AMC Studios’ calculation of the Cost of Production, Defendants can artificially inflate the Cost of Production with impunity, thereby reducing the profits for Darabont and CAA to share in,” the BlankRome letter additionally says. “Defendants cannot replace the broad scope of discovery …with their misguided interpretation of contract language,”
The uber-agency and The Shawshank Redemption director’s lawyer also intend at that hearing to push Justice Bransten to at least give them a hint when a long long awaited summary judgement on the initial December 2013 action could finally be coming down the much clogged pipe, I hear. It’s very likely AMC’s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher team likely plan to do the same.
And things seemed to be going so well between the lawyers this summer.
“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,” Bernstein said on August 30, as an amended complaint was also filed with the court in the 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 asserted, with an ace up his sleeve that the claims could reappear.
Full of “improper self-dealing” echoes of the pink slipped Darabont’s first action, Kirkman, fellow TWD EPs Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Charles Eglee and ex-showrunner Glenn Mazzara took AMC to court in the summer of 2017 alleging that the cabler had ripped off them off too out what they were rightly due with some slight-of-hand money moves. That case is now slowly moving through state court in California, where it was formally moved at the end of last year.
“Other profit participants for The Walking Dead—several of whom have also sued Defendants—have conducted their own audits of Defendants’ accounting practices,” today’s letter to Justice Bransten spotlights. “Defendants contend that the other profit participants’ audit reports are not relevant to Plaintiffs’ claims in this action,” the wide ranging but relatively short letter also states. “If these audit reports reveal that Defendants provided certain materials to other profit participants’ auditors, but arbitrarily refused to provide the same materials to Plaintiffs’ auditors, these audit reports would also support Plaintiffs’ claims that Defendants obstructed Plaintiffs’ audit. The audit reports for the other profit participants should be produced to Plaintiffs.”
In the January launched case, the lawyers for Darabont and CAA said that AMC “attempted to hide evidence related to its self-dealing from Plaintiffs during discovery in the pending litigation.”
Looks like for all the years, motions, hearings, filings and name-calling, at least one side thinks not much has changed over the past few months. Expect AMC’s main lawyer Snyder to formally respond on the docket before the October 30 hearing and then more of the same from both sides, again.