Attorneys for Clive Cussler and Philip Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment were back in court Tuesday for post-trial motions, but resolution of damage issues and the all-important question of which party prevailed will have to wait until at least September.
In May, a nearly four-month jury trial over the failed film “Sahara” ended with a split decision by the jury. Filling out a complex special verdict form, the L.A. Superior Court jury awarded Crusader $5 million in damages for past and future economic loss. The jury also found that Crusader was obligated to pay Cussler about $8.5 million for the rights to the second of two Cussler books that Crusader licensed for a planned film series based on his Dirk Pitt adventure series. The jury’s award to Cussler was advisory and required a separate determination by L.A. Superior Court Judge John Shook.
In a complex procedural argument Tuesday, Crusader attorney Marvin Putnam argued that there were no outstanding claims and that Cussler had missed his opportunity to assert a claim on which Shook could even potentially award Cussler damages. After vigorous dispute by Cussler’s attorney Bert Fields, Shook told the parties to come back in September. Shook’s decision will ultimately determine not only whether Cussler is awarded any damages, but which side prevailed. The prevailing party can then seek attorneys’ fees.
The legal brawling began before the film was released, when Cussler sued Crusader, claiming it had breached his original agreement regarding his right to have script approval over the film. Crusader countersued, claiming that Cussler hurt the film’s prospects through his unreasonable script demands and by bad-mouthing the project to his fans. Cussler sought $40 million in damages from Crusader. Crusader asked for $100 million from Cussler.
“Sahara” grossed about $68.7 million at the domestic box office but wound up losing more than $80 million when all the costs were tallied.