(UPDATED WITH DARABONT & CAA ATTORNEY STATEMENT) Just over six months before the trial is finally set to start on Frank Darabont and CAA’s consolidated multi-million dollars cases against AMC over profits from The Walking Dead, the cabler today threw a new potential spanner in the works.
“Defendants respectfully request that the Court grant their motion for summary judgment and: (i) hold that the parties’ contract clearly and unambiguously provides that AMC’s MAGR Definition governs the calculation of Plaintiffs’ MAGR, and (ii) dismiss each of Plaintiffs’ claims in full and with prejudice,” proclaim AMC’s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP legal team in a summary judgement filing tonight in New York Supreme Court revolving around the contested Modified Adjusted Gross Receipts that fuel part of Darabont and his agency’s multi-prong action over still cable topping TWD.
Now, this is not the more than $300 million suit that the showrunner of the first season of the zombie apocalypse series launched back in the pre-streaming wars days of late 2013. Tonight’s move is against the secondary $10 million action that CAA and their client ripped AMC with in January 2018 declaring that once home of Mad Men “used a variety of shady accounting practices” to keep big bucks out of the accounts of Darabont and other profit participators.
“Represented by the most sophisticated lawyers and agents in Hollywood, Plaintiffs negotiated and agreed to accept contract terms that set forth precisely how their profit participation would be calculated,” the Orin Snyder led bicoastal defense team said late Monday in documents accompanying the motion to see the matter deep sixed (read it here).
“After the television show became an enormous critical and financial success, Plaintiffs attempted to re-negotiate their contracts through litigation to achieve a financial windfall that the contracts do not award,” they added in language that is very familiar to anyone with even a passing acquittance with this ongoing brawl that has spread across over half a decade. “In contrast, Defendants ask this Court to do nothing more than apply hornbook New York law to ‘enforce’ the ‘clear and unambiguous’ contract language ‘according to the plain meaning of its terms.’”
Alas, if only it were that easy or straightforward for anyone within spitting distance of the mega-grudge match between the pink slipped Darabont, the powerful CAA and AMC, with the latter duo still doing a boatload of business as this all goes on.
Having unsuccessfully attempted on more than once occasion to TKO the smaller suit, not to mention the looming larger suit, over the years and with trials encompassing not just the Shawshank Redemption director and his agency but also TWD creator Robert Kirkman too in 2020, AMC clearly are going for the Hail Mary here with some posturing chucked in.
While big cases have been stopped, stalled or even won on lesser moves, it would be hard to imagine that the scenario here.
For once thing, besides all the paperwork, correspondences to judges past and present, and courtroom face-offs, the 2013 case and the 2018 case were linked by Justice Joel Cohen earlier this year. Having taken over from the now retired Justice Eileen Bransten in February, Justice Cohen has tried to move the often-lumbering matter along at a faster clip. With all roads recently leading to the now June 1, 2020 trial kick-off, Judge Cohen has made it repeatedly apparent that he does not have much patience for more delays.
Or maybe not so much now, if AMC get their summary judgement or if their unlikely earnest desire drags things out.
As it stands right now, with the anticipated submitting of this potential case killer summary judgement, CAA and Darabont plus their Blank Rome LLP and Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP attorneys are on a tight post-holidays schedule to file any opposition to AMC’s summary judgement by February 3. To give a sense of how hectic this long long march is about to get, that opposition deadline is just seven days before the mini-trial over contract interpretations in Kirkman’s profit participation agreement with AMC commences out here in L.A. – stretching the Gibson Dunn & Crutcher crew pretty bi-coastal thin. A near lightening set of deadline dominos are then in motion in the Empire State to fall right up until jury selection on May 26 and then the much-scrutinized trial to follow.
Having already recently voluntarily partially limited their claims in the matter, the uber-agency and Darabont now find themselves in the tumble dryer as AMC’s real intent is likely to put the plaintiffs on notice of how rough this could all get – which is no surprise to anyone who has been following this since the initial case bopped AMC with a black eye one day short of six years ago today.
“These lawsuits shine a spotlight on how CAA puts its own financial interest above the financial interest of its clients,” said AMC’s outside counsel Snyder this evening as the filing hit the New York Supreme Court docket. “By now, we all know that CAA and Darabont filed this lawsuit to rewrite their contracts only after The Walking Dead became a huge commercial success. Today’s motion shows that this lawsuit is just another CAA money grab that should be thrown out of court.”
Blunt, but basically what we’ve heard before in various forms in this case(s).
“Having had their deceptive and faulty accounting practices exposed, it is little surprise that AMC again seeks to avoid facing a jury,” says Darabont and CAA’s top lawyer Dale Kinsella in response. “The motion is based on a bogus interpretation of Darabont’s contract and should be denied. We look forward to trial on June 1.”
Again, blunt and familiar.
In that duel context, it’s worth noting that Darabont, Kirkman and their mutual agency CAA are not the only TWD core group suing AMC over profits. Since the initial suit of 2013, Kirkman was joined EP Gale Anne Hurd and other TWD execs also went after AMC in the summer of 2017 over money that they say the cabler screwed them out of too – a state of affairs that was in part unveiled thanks to the Darabont action.
Circle of unlife, so to speak.
We will update with a statement from Darabont and CAA’s attorneys when we get one.