TV producer Philip DeGuere has won a round in his long-running battle with Universal TV, thanks to a state appeals court ruling that revives his lawsuit over his cut of the profits from the 1980s detective drama “Simon & Simon.”
The appeals court didn’t weigh in on the heart of the dispute — the contentious issue of Hollywood accounting practices — but it did agree with DeGuere’s claim that a lower court improperly relied on the findings of a court-appointed referee in siding with Universal.
DeGuere, who created “Simon & Simon” and served as executive producer for its first four seasons, claims Universal owes him nearly $44 million under the terms of his contract, which promised him 40% of the series’ net profit.
Universal maintains it owes DeGuere nothing because the show, as of 1992, had chalked up a net loss of nearly $59 million. “Simon & Simon” ran on CBS from 1981-88 and has since aired in syndication.
DeGuere’s suit, filed in 1992, accused Universal of “improperly and unconscionably” accounting for what the suit claims is at least $100 million in profit generated by the show. The suit also claimed that elements of DeGuere’s contract with the studio were unfair under state law.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge previously upheld the court-appointed referee’s findings that the studio used standard accounting practices and had properly interpreted the terms of DeGuere’s contract.
On Tuesday, the appellate court ruling said the referee did not have the authority to determine legal issues such as the meaning and fairness of a contract. In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court ruled that DeGuere is entitled to a trial to determine the validity of the contract.