Case pending for four years is decided in six days

A long-running copyright suit ended with a verdict in favor of Steven Bochco last week when a federal jury found that he did not copy the script for the defunct TV hospital drama “City of Angels.”

The plaintiffs, Jerome and Laurie Metcalf (no relation to the actress of the same name), filed suit claiming there were substantial similarities between their script and the screenplay for the series, which was set in inner-city Los Angeles and featured a predominantly black cast. The show ran on CBS for 1½ seasons.

Following the verdict, Bochco attorney Edward Ruttenberg said, “After having this matter pending for four years, a jury had no difficulty determining that Mr. Bochco and the other creators of ‘City of Angels’ had not violated any rights held by the Metcalfs and properly and completely vindicated them.”

Ruttenberg, who also represented CBS, said that that after a six-day trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the jury deliberated for a little more than two hours before reaching its verdict.

Robert Helfing, who represented the Metcalfs, said they planned to appeal. “We don’t know why the jury held the way they did, but they held the wrong way.”

The case, originally filed in March 2000, was dismissed by the trial court, but it was reinstated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. In sending it back for trial, the court noted that both the Metcalf and Bochco projects involved young black doctors who work in an inner-city hospital and grew up in the neighborhood where they work.

The court also pointed out that Bochco had access to the scripts because he worked closely with actor Michael Warren, who said he had passed them on to Bochco. But at trial, the jury found that Bochco had independently created the series.

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