Friday’s tentative ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan paves the way for a jury trial. The judge wrote, “The Court finds that opposing parties never impliedly or otherwise consented to the written arbitration provisions, based upon the substantial evidence filed in opposition.”
Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Doug Davison sued Legendary and its president Jon Jashni on Jan. 17 over the production company taking them off “Godzilla,” accusing Legendary of trying to avoid paying the producers millions of dollars. Legendary had asked for a court order on Jan. 9 to let the studio move forward and filed an arbitration demand at that point.
“We are delighted that the court found that there was no written agreement so that this can proceed to a public jury trial,” said Larry Stein, attorney for producers.
Dale Kinsella, attorney for Legendary, said in a statement, “The judge’s decision has no bearing on the merits of the parties’ respective claims, and Legendary remains confident that it will prevail in the case.”
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Both sides had agreed in January that Kahn should rule on the issue of the applicability of the arbitration provision in a 2011 draft agreement sent by Legendary to producers covering their producing activities. The suit asserted that since the agreement was never signed, the arbitration provision is not enforceable.
Legendary’s complaint said the trio’s efforts had consisted only of introducing a screenwriter and providing contributing notes that were not used. Legendary asserted that the compensation for all three under the agreement is limited to a $25,000 development fee.
The counterclaim asserts that the trio relied on that 2009 pledge and spent the next several years selecting screenwriters, developing the story, characters and screenplay and readying the movie for production. It also asserts that Legendary made an oral agreement in 2010 to pay the three producers a $25,000 development fee, fixed compensation of $1.3 million and contingent compensation of 3% of first-dollar gross receipts after the trio assisted Legendary in obtaining the “Godzilla” rights from Japan’s Toho Co.
Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jashni remain as producers, along with Brian Rogers. Lin and Lee had been included as producers since the original announcement in 2010 in which Legendary also said “Godzilla” would be produced under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. “Godzilla” is set for a May 16, 2014, release through Warner Bros.