'Dukes of Hazzard' Star Settles Lawsuit Over Merchandising Cash
Inept Hazzard County sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane might not have been the most effective television lawman. But James Best, the man who played him on "The Dukes of Hazzard," appears to have just scored at least a partial legal victory in court.
Best, who played Coltrane on the series through its 1979-1985 run, has settled a lawsuit against Time Warner, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Licensing Corporation of America, that alleged Best had been deprived of revenues from merchandising and spinoffs.
The stipulation to dismiss the case, filed in U.S. District Court in North Carolina, did not state the terms of the settlement. However, the suit, filed in 2011, claimed that Warner Bros. owed Best "an amount reasonably believed to be to be between $5 million and $25 million for the early years [of the show] alone." The complaint, which listed numerous allegations including multiple forms of fraud, claimed damages "in excess of $75,000."
The suit claimed that, under his "Dukes" contract, Best was entitled to 2 1/2 percent of total revenue from merchandise which bore aspects of his likeness, but that Warner Bros. issued reports for merchandise revenue that "have not only been sporadic, inconsistent, inaccurate and misleading, but sorely lacking in detail."
The complaint claimed that, at one point, Warner claimed that "Dukes" merchandise using Best's identity amounted to less than $8 million over a 32-year period, "in direct conflict with a published report that sales of merchandise had soared to 'over $190 million per year' during the first six years in which the show aired on CBS."
Warner Bros. had no comment on the settlement.
Best also claimed that he was due revenue from any "Dukes of Hazzard" spinoffs, but was "provided no financial accounting whatsoever for spinoffs."
(In addition to the spinoff "Enos," "Dukes of Hazzard" also spawned made-for-TV movies, and a 2005 big-screen version.)
The suit also claimed that he is owed royalties because he "holds a 50 percent ownership interest in 'The Dukes of Hazzard' character Flash -- a Basset Hound who appeared in Season Three and thereafter."
According to the stipulation of dismissal, all parties will bear their own costs, fees and expenses.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.