Anticlimactic end to a trial
A day after the judge presiding over the “Will & Grace” profits trial hinted that the outcome didn’t look good for NBC, the two sides announced that they have settled out of court.Terms of the settlement were not immediately available — but can likely be seen as a victory for “Will & Grace” creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, unlike most other cases in which profit participants accuse a network and studio of self dealing. Peacock decided to take the case to trial rather than settle early on. The settlement puts an anticlimatic end to a trial that had been closely watched by TV profit participants and studios alike. And it also caps off an unsual series of developments that took place Wednesday, when L.A. Superior Court Judge Warren Ettinger granted a motion to dismiss jury foreman Dean Hartwell. Having deliberated for over a week, the jury on the case — in which Mutchnick and Kohan sued NBC Studios over money they believe they’re owed — had already rendered a verdict on the case. But L.A. Superior Court Judge Warren Ettinger did not reveal the decision, because of the jury misconduct motion. Hartwell was removed after it was revealed that he runs a Web site known for taking a harsh stance against major corporations. Ettinger spent Thursday afternoon interviewing each juror to determine whether the dismissed member had a major impact on their decision. Because Ettinger indicated that Hartwell’s strong opinions might have swayed jurors, it was generally assumed that the jury had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The judge was set to tell the courtroom Friday at 9 a.m. if a mistrial has been declared, or if the jury would be sent back to deliberations with an alternate juror. Instead, the court was told that a settlement had been reached. Kohan and Mutchnick (and their agent, Scott Schwartz) filed suit against the Peacock in 2003, claiming that series producer NBC Studios failed to negotiate a fair license fee from its sibling network buyer — costing the scribes tens of millions of dollars. At the time, NBC countersued, alleging that Kohan and Mutchnick breached their contract by failing to take part in negotiations at the net to renew “Will & Grace.”
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