On February 27, 2019, a February 4th ruling of an arbitrator's award against 21st Century Fox Inc. (“Fox”) was made public for $179 million. The claimants were key personnel behind the TV crime drama, “Bones.” The case as based upon Fox wrongfully withholding “chunks of the show's profits.”
The ruling revealed how JAMS arbitrator Peter D. Lichtman (“Lichtman”) viewed the evidence against Fox. for their conduct alleged by the “Bones” team, who wrote the books that inspired the series. Lichtman also “fumed” at what he called the “cavalier” attitude of Fox and its witnesses toward the arbitration proceedings.
Lichtman, a retired judge, rendered what can only be characterized as a high-dollar, harshly worded ruling, saying the case made by the “Bones” stars “was presented and supported through the testimony of the Fox witnesses themselves.”
Lichtman explained, “It is Fox and Fox alone that is responsible for the evidentiary findings made herein…If this had been a jury trial, counsel for Fox would be decrying a runaway verdict comprised of passion and prejudice. However, to reiterate, this ignores that it was Fox's own employees, executives and witnesses that provided the evidence for the arbitrator to make the findings.”
Fox has now contested Lichtman's ruling, and has asked the Los Angeles court to undo at least part of the arbitrator's nine-figure award. “Lichtman overstepped his authority by awarding punitive damages in violation of explicit provisions of agreements between Fox and the “Bones” talent,” the Fox stated in its opposition to the petition to confirm the arbitration award.
Fox further argued, “Because the contract here says just that — in broad and unambiguous terms — the California Arbitration Act requires the court to vacate the award, or correct it by excising its $128 million punitive damages component.”
Lichtman's ruling awarded $32.8 million in actual damages. Then the arbitrator multiplied $25.7 million by 5 to award the $128 million in punitive damages, and several million more was tacked on for attorneys' fees, arbitration costs and interests, bringing the total to just shy of $179 million.
Claimants Deschanel, Reichs and Boreanaz are represented by John V. Berlinski, Candace Frazier and Daniel A. Saunders of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.
Claimant Wark is represented by Dale F. Kinsella, Chad Fitzgerald and Aaron C. Liskin of Kinsella Weitzman Iser et al LLP.
Fox is represented by Glenn D. Pomerantz and John L. Schwab of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP. It is additionally represented in opposing the petition to confirm the arbitration award by Daniel M. Petrocelli and Molly M. Lens of O'Melveny & Myers LLP.
The cases are Wark Entertainment Inc. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., case number BC602287, and Temperance Brennan LP et al. v. Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., case number BC602548, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
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