Sunday, May 20, 2007

The verdict is in

The jury in the Clive Cussler case returned its verdicts this past week. Although Cussler had been seeking $40 million in damages from Crusader Entertainment, the producers of Sahara (Crusader itself countersued Cussler for $115 million), the awards from the jury were far more modest: $5 million for producer Phillip Anschutz and $8.5 million to author Cussler. The jury found that, while Cussler did breach his contract with Crusader, Anschutz's company should also pay Cussler for a second Dirk Pitt novel that was never produced. While not an outcome on the level of the legendary USFL v. NFL antitrust suit (where the jury found for the upstart football league, but only awarded it a single dollar in damages), it's probably just enough to cover each sides legal costs for this kind of litigation. The attorneys tried to put the best possible spin on the verdicts but it's hard to believe that either side really considers the jury's baby-splitting "a complete victory" or that "Cussler is the clear winner." The lawyer in me wonders why, when the jury was apparently loath to award either party a substantial amount, the parties chose to roll the dice at all and take it to trial. I'll presume (without knowing more), that any settlement offers that were made beforehand were larger than the verdict amounts -- compared to what each side was seeking, anything in the single-millions would likely not have been viewed as a serious offer. The screenwriter in me realizes that when Hollywood-sized egos get involved in these kinds of contests, rational decision making often goes out the window. Now it's on to October and the expiration of the current WGA Minimum Basic Agreement . . .


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