Set to go to trial next month, Frank Darabont and CAA’s more than seven-year legal battle with AMC over hundreds of millions in profits from The Walking Dead now looks likely to still be going on even after the zombie apocalypse series is over – maybe.
Today, New York Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen pushed the start of the high-profile and high-powered lawyered up trial back almost one year to April 4, 2022.
That’ll be over eight years after the pink slipped Darabont and CAA first filed against AMC in late 2013 over the once-blockbuster drama based on Robert Kirkman’s comics
With around $300 million in profit participation at stake, allegations of self-dealing by the cabler, and a $10 million second suit added more recently, and that’s the polite stuff, the already much delayed trial was supposed to kick off in a coronavirus safety protocol enhanced NYC courtroom on April 26, 2021. Now, as the Empire State courts open up more and more, jury selection in the TWD trial won’t even begin until March 28 next year.
However, that time table could shift again, it seems in a compromise in all but name from Justice Cohen in Tuesday’s agreement from all the attorneys.
“If a window for the a five-week jury trial becomes available on the Court’s calendar before April 4, 2022, and assuming that the Court deems pandemic conditions allow a trial to be conducted safely at that time, the parties will use their best efforts to make themselves available for a joint trial of the above-captioned actions during that window, provided that trial counsel for the parties can clear their calendars, and the parties have sufficient notice to secure the participation of their respective witnesses,” noted Justice Cohen in today’s stipulation and order (read it here).
Neither attorneys for original TWD showrunner Darabont and CAA or AMC responded to request for comment on Tuesday’s stipulation and order.
Not that they had been so silent over the past few weeks.
After years and years of filings, fights, public shaming and a related LA trial with Kirkman, the highly anticipated 2021 trial date was suddenly thrown into question earlier this month by Covid-19 concerns that AMC’s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher attorneys passionately expressed on a conference call with Justice Cohen and Blank Rome and Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump lawyers for the Shawshank Redemption director and the uberagency.
As promised on the call by Gibson’s Orin Snyder, those pandemic problems were further expressed in a March 15 motion from the defiant defendants to vacate and continue the five-week trial until the global health crisis has more substantially beaten a retreat. Accusing the plaintiffs’ team of being “unconcerned with the risks they and their counsel will be exposed to at trial” and “unfortunate gamesmanship,” AMC’s legal crew wanted Cohen to shove the trial down the calendar until the safety of participants from lawyers to jurors to witnesses could be assured – or they said they would settle for a bench trial right now.
Yesterday, clearly simmering between the lines, Blank Rome’s Jerry Bernstein filed a response for the plaintiffs objecting to changing the trial start date and calling out the other side.
“Defendants have radically shifted position in the thirty days since the last conference on
February 10,” Bernstein wrote in his March 22 opposition memorandum. “Just one month ago, Defendants did not object to the April 26th trial when, at the time, the available information regarding Covid was worse than it is now,” he added.
“The trial is more than a month away and more positive developments are expected by the time the trial is scheduled to start,” Bernstein went on to say of an increasingly vaccinated nation. “In the event that things go awry, the trial can always be delayed as necessary.”
And now it has.
BTW – Just over week away from its coronavirus halted and extended penultimate season concluding, The Walking Dead will come to an end next year as its supersized 11th season wraps up. Which means at this rate, with the inevitable appeals to come regardless of which side wins at the initial trial, TWD, the legal battle could still be going on when Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride’s TWD spinoff has premiered and ended.