A lawyer for Warner Bros. said Tuesday that an L.A. Superior Court ruling that threw out the “Batman” suit should deter studio-targeted lawsuits over perceived financial slights.
“It says if you negotiate a deal with a studio with your eyes open and you’re well represented, you don’t come back two years later and say they treated me unfairly,” said Robert M. Schwartz, one of the attorneys for Warner Bros.
Schwartz’s remarks came a day after Judge David Yaffe tossed out the “Batman” suit because plaintiffs Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan had not provided enough evidence to warrant a jury verdict.
“This says the studios are not always bastards,” he said. “You can’t just file against a studio and expect a judge and jury to give you money.”
Melniker and Uslan, exec producers on “Batman,” sued Warner and Polygram for $ 8 million for allegedly depriving themof a fair share of profits from the high-tech hit.
“Batman” grossed more than $ 300 million domestically. Melniker and Uslan cut a deal that allowed them a percentage of “net profits.” To date, the film has not earned any net profits.
The pair argued that they were partners with Polygram and producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters and should have partaken in gross profits. Melniker and Uslan argued in court that as partners they should have received 40% of Polygram’s gross take.
Yaffe ruled that Melniker, a trained lawyer, knew the ramifications of the deal he cut and that to complain later that he was mislead as to profit participation was disingenuous.
Tom Girardi, attorney for Melniker and Uslan, said he would file with the California Court of Appeal to protest Yaffe’s ruling.
Schwartz said the ruling should also deter “net profits law suits” as in the well-publicized Art Buchwald case against Paramount, which challenged the question of net profits on the pic “Coming to America.”
“After the Buchwald case there was an expectancy that a lot of people would start suing studios and say that was unfair,” Schwartz said. “Net profit contracts are fair and they pay out in appropriate circumstances.”
Schwartz said that Warner would soon file a motion to recover court costs and legal expenses.