(Credit: Gene Page/AMC)
The Walking Dead co-creator Frank Darabont and his CAA agents have hit the homestretch in their lawsuit against AMC over the hit zombie show’s profits. In a certificate of trial readiness filed on Monday, the plaintiffs reveal that they will be seeking a whopping damages verdict in excess of $280 million.
“Plaintiffs’ damages claim has no basis in reality and we will continue to vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” said AMC in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter.
Darabont was fired in the middle of the second season and his lawsuit contends that AMC has robbed him of contingent profits by producing the series and then licensing it to its cable network affiliate for not enough money. The lawsuit is a good example of a "vertical integration" case where AMC is arguing it negotiated the right to set an imputed license fee. Considering that Darabont was contractually entitled to as much as 10 percent of certain Walking Dead profits after deductions, the damages figure suggests the series has made billions. The lawsuit asserts, however, that a low license fee formula has been designed to ensure that the show would never be in the black for profit participants.
A trial will also feature the circumstances of Darabont’s departure from Walking Dead, which will enter its seventh season in October. That’s because Darabont is also alleging that AMC improperly reduced his profit share by not counting him as fully vested in the second season. He says he worked on all of the episodes of the second season while AMC asserts he had to be working full-time on the show at the end of the second cycle. A judge allowed the claim after an explosive deposition from Darabont was revealed detailing the “crisis-level problems” on the show.
Last week, discovery in the dispute formally ended.
On Tuesday, Justice Eileen Bransten held a status conference.
The next step in the dispute is summary judgment motions that will provide an even fuller picture of AMC’s hit show and Darabont’s negotiations.
If the judge allows the case to move forward, it will go to trial, though don’t expect it anytime soon. At the hearing, Bransten said her 2017 schedule was completely booked and that the parties would need to wait until 2018 at the earliest. If and when that does occur, the trial will mark one of the biggest profit cases in television history with a potential outcome that surpasses the $319 million verdict that Disney suffered in the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire lawsuit.