Plaintiff Charles Kessler has withdrawn his wide-ranging damages suit against Matt and Ross Duffer.
“After hearing the deposition testimony this week of the legal expert I hired, it is now apparent to me that, whatever I may have believed in the past, my work had nothing to do with the creation of Stranger Things,” said Kessler in a statement Sunday.
“Documents from 2010 and 2013 prove that the Duffers independently created their show. As a result, I have withdrawn my claim and I will be making no further comment on this matter.”
Netflix was quick to respond to the end of what could have been a revealing case and trial for all concerned.
“We are glad to be able to put this baseless lawsuit behind us. As we have said all along, Stranger Things is a ground-breaking original creation by The Duffer Brothers,” said Netflix in a statement. “We are proud of this show and of our friends Matt and Ross, whose artistic vision gave life to Stranger Things, and whose passion, imagination and relentless hard work alongside our talented cast and crew made it a wildly successful, award-winning series beloved by viewers around the world.”
The expected five-day trial was supposed to begin on May 7 in LA Superior Court.
As Deadline reported last week, right before the Duffer brothers were to go on trial for allegedly scooping ideas for Stranger Things from the filmmaker, lawyers from both sides met in court to limit the scope of what the jury will and will not be able to see and hear. When all was said and done, the plaintiff’s attorneys started to stand down on certain issues. This included comparing Kessler’s script and the Stranger Things pilot. All of this came to the surface after the plaintiff’s lawyers’ own expert saw documents in his deposition where he admitted he undermined his conviction that the Duffers didn’t create the Netflix series.
In his initial April 2, 2018 filing, Kessler claimed he pitched the concept for what became Stranger Things to the Duffer siblings at a 2014 Tribeca Film Festival party. To add meat on that bone, the Montauk director also declared that not long afterwards, he handed over “the script, ideas, story and film” to the duo. Kessler’s breach of implied contract suit asserts that the Duffers used his material to craft what became the Netflix series, which during its early stages went under the working title The Montauk Project.
As is the standard PR response in such David and Demogorgon cases, the Duffers almost immediately slammed the plaintiff’s case as “meritless” in April last year in the first of several efforts to shut it down – with “full support” from the streaming service.
Having said that, last month Stern declined to dismiss the case. In his ruling at the time, he said he would let the matter go to trial because the Duffers hadn’t provided significant evidence of “independent creation” that they came up with the idea for Stranger Things.
In that context, when the Duffer Brothers’ project with Netflix was first announced in 2015, it was called Montauk. With the name later changed for what one attorney in court today called likely “legal issues,” the project was also set in Long Island (it later shifted to Indiana), with other similarities to Kessler’s script including a missing boy, a nearby military base conducting experiments on children, and a monster from another dimension that looks like a toy.
In filings on April 30, Kessler asked the court to exclude Stranger Things the series from the trial and the jury. “The series was based on the pilot, but the series was written by an army of writers in one of Netflix’s writing rooms,” the motion attests.
“As such, the series is no longer even Defendants’ sole creation, but rather a collaborative work product of writers. Therefore, offering the series into evidence is wholly irrelevant as to whether Defendants’ stole Mr. Kessler’s ideas from his pitch, and subsequently used them in their pilot.”
The third season of Stranger Things is set to debut on July 4.