Following Frank Darabont's decision to sue AMC for in excess of $280 million after his exit as showrunner of The Walking Dead, it looks like the case will go to trial.
The news is generally being seen as a favorable decision for the studio, since it will likely result in a ruling that will put Darabont and AMC at the table to negotiate an appropriate settlement.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the presiding judge, Eileen Bransten, overruled Darabont's claims that the fees he's owed needs to be more because his lawyers discovered Darabont's profit calculation was based on an “imputed” fee, as opposed to the comic's co-creator Robert Kirkman, who in his own lawsuit actually had a profit calculation based on AMC’s “actual” distribution fee.
In this case, which was first lodged in 2013, the judge is now looking at contractual interpretation of this key issue, with the ultimate determination to be taken before a jury. Darabont's team believes AMC should be booking a lot more in imputed fees, which could see payoffs balloon from about $2.4 million an episode to $20 million to $30 million an episode, and drastically reshape the show's economics in terms of production value and budgets.
"Defendants’ motion must be granted in part as to the claims for breach of the pay or pay provision, contractual screen credits, which was withdrawn by the Plaintiff, and the causes of action for an accounting, which was also withdrawn by the Plaintiff, and declaratory judgment cannot be sustained as there are alternative remedies available to the Plaintiff," Bransten added. "It must be denied in all other respects given that factual issues exist which prohibit this Court from making a determination as a matter of law."
The ruling also affirmed that Darabont has been denied the ability for negotiations on the third season and beyond, as well as involving spinoffs like The Talking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead as part of his claim. AMC has changed lawyers for this case and could appeal the December 7 order and take the case to the new judge, after Justice Bransten leaves the bench at the end of this year. However, this fight will go on as both sides believe they're still on the victorious side.
"We are pleased that the Court denied AMC’s motion for summary judgment as to every key claim in Plaintiffs' case," said Darabont's team in a joint statement. “We look forward to proceeding to trial on Plaintiffs' claims, which now exceed a quarter billion dollars."
"We are very pleased with today’s decision," declared Orin Snyder, AMC’s main lawyer since early this year, and someone who has openly bashed Darabont's team as cash-grabbers. "It is a victory. The judge denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment outright on the fundamental issue in the case,” the AMC team stated. “The judge also awarded summary judgment to AMC on four of plaintiffs’ claims, throwing them out completely. We now look forward to trial where we are confident we will prevail."
The Walking Dead will return for the second half of its ninth season in 2019.