Disney Loses Appeal in $319M 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' Case
The Walt Disney Company has lost its bid for a new trial in its legal saga with the creators of the game show "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" who won a $319 million award against the company in 2010.
In a ruling filed on Monday, a trio of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges shot down ABC, Buena Vista Television and Valleycrest Productions, after those companies (referred to as "the Disney affiliates" in the ruling) sought to appeal an earlier order denying their motion for judgment as a matter of law, and for a new trial in the matter.
In 2010, "Millionaire" creators Celador International, Inc. received a judgment of just over $269 million, and the company later received another $50 million after Judge Virginia Phillips awarded prejudgment interest to the British company.
Celador, which initially filed suit in 2004, had argued that Disney and its affiliates ABC, Buena Vista Television and Valleycrest Production set up numerous shady deals and on-the-sly arrangements that robbed Celador of hundreds of millions in expected revenues.
Disney lost a bid to overturn the jury's verdict in December 2010, but argued in its motion in the 9th Circuit that the U.S. District Court in Central California had "committed evidentiary, instructional and other errors."
The 9th Circuit judges disagreed, upholding the award.
"We're exceptionally gratified for our client that the Court of Appeals has affirmed the trial verdict and judgment," Celador's trial lawyers Roman M. Silberfeld and Bernice Conn, partners with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. in Los Angeles, said in a statement provided to TheWrap. "Both the trial judge's and an attentive jury's thoughtful and careful assessment of the law and facts were upheld today."
ABC, understandably, had a different take on the matter.
"We are extremely disappointed with the decision, as ABC and Buena Vista Television continue to believe that they fully adhered to the 'Millionaire' agreement," an ABC spokesman told TheWrap in a statement.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.