‘Walking Dead’ Creator Robert Kirkman & Other EPs Prevail Over AMC Attempt To Kill $200M Profits Suit

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The first season of the latest Walking Dead spinoff The Ones Who Live is concluding this weekend, but the latest profit participation lawsuit from zombie apocalypse creator Robert Kirkman, franchise executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others is far from over.

With heavy emphasis on the $200 million settlement AMC suddenly made in 2021 to end ex-TWD showrunner Frank Darabont and CAA’s nearly 10-year long lawsuit over profits, U.S. District Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha yesterday denied the outlet’s move to have Kirkman, Hurd, David Alpert, Charles Eglee and Glen Mazzara’s mega-millions case dismissed.

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“It would be an illogical interpretation of the MFN (most favored nations) provisions and contrary to the reasonable expectations of the parties in entering into the agreements if the court were to allow Defendants, as a matter of law, to provide Darabont and CAA with increased contingent compensation and a greater share of future gross receipts for the series through a settlement agreement—at Plaintiffs’ expense—without providing Plaintiffs the same,” the California-based federal judge wrote in a 13-page ruling filed Monday (read the TWD EP case ruling here).

Having pulled the short stick in a previous suit against AMC, Kirkman, Hurd and fellow TWD EPs sued AMC for $200 million in a November 15, 2022 breach of contract action.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to the same treatment afforded to Darabont with respect to his MAGR interests, they are therefore entitled to have the same valuation applied to their MAGR interests, which, collectively, exceed Darabont’s and CAA’s,” the LA Superior Court filing declared with reference to  modified adjusted gross receipts metric used to gauge profit participation payouts. “As a result, Plaintiffs are entitled to a payment well over $200 million from AMC, in an amount to be proved at trial.”

Citing the sorry state of those mentioned previous suits, AMC’s attorney swatted the new suit as “just another crass money grab” by producers who’d already made millions off TWD franchise and looked to make millions more as the TWDverse expanded. In point of fact, and a matter of some contention financially in this case, even though the TWD mothershow ended in 2022 after 12 sometimes blockbuster seasons, and Fear the Walking Dead finished in 2023, the franchise has rolled out the fourth, fifth, and sixth spinoffs in the last year alone with The Walking Dead: Dead City, Daryl Dixon and TWD: The Ones Who Live.

Based on jurisdictional issues, the EPs’ suit was shifted on December 15, 2002 from LASC to federal court – where it has been making its way through various motions and briefing schedules ever since. A year ago, not long after AMC’s Gibson Dunn and Crutcher lawyers filed their motion to dismiss, a trial start date of September 17, 2024 was set.

With only the plaintiffs’ cause of action to stop AMC taking the battle to arbitration tossed out (because AMC had already said they had decided not to go in that direction) by Judge Aenlle-Rocha, the stage was set this week to head towards that trial later this year.

A reality that Kirkman, Hurd and the others were clearly relishing.

“The Court’s Order refusing to dismiss the case demonstrates that it is hardly the so-called ‘crass money grab’ that AMC’s lawyers claimed it was when the case was filed,” said the EPs’ main attorney Sheldon Eisenberg. “We are pleased that the Court has recognized the seriousness of Plaintiffs’ claims and is permitting them to be decided on their merits,” the Sullivan & Triggs lawyer added.

Likely expecting they were going to come up a cropper in their dismissal hopes, AMC’s team opted for the back to the future approach in their response.

“These plaintiffs have been in the business of suing AMC since 2017 to rewrite their contracts and extract money they are not owed,” noted AMC outside counsel Orin Snyder to Deadline after the ruling. “This is just another round in their litigation crusade. We are confident these claims will also fail,” the powerhouse lawyer added.

With that, TWD: The Ones Who Live wraps up its six-episode first season run on March 31. The Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln starrer has not been given an official Season 2 renewal – yet.

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