×

SAG-AFTRA Hit With Costs Over ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Actor’s Lawsuit

A federal appeals court panel has ruled SAG-AFTRA is on the hook for the $330,000 it paid to Ken Osmond and his attorneys five years ago to settle his class-action suit over foreign tax revenues.

In a Jan. 15 ruling, the three-judge panel denied the union’s appeal of a 2013 ruling siding with the Federal Insurance Co., which refused to reimburse the funds paid to the “Leave It to Beaver” actor.

It’s the latest development in a long-running dispute over “foreign levies,” which are collected for performers from countries through mechanisms such as taxes on video sales and rentals to compensate copyright holders for reuse.

SAG, the WGA and the DGA began collecting the funds in the early 1990s on behalf of members and nonmembers. Starting in 2005, several legal actions have been filed over alleged mishandling of the funds with SAG-AFTRA brushing off the allegations and insisting it’s done nothing wrong.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief operating officer and general counsel, said, “SAG-AFTRA strongly disagrees with the unpublished decision of the appellate court in this matter. The decision is based on erroneous factual assumptions that are directly contradicted by the record and the judicially-approved settlement in the case. SAG-AFTRA is presently evaluating its options for further judicial review.”

Popular on Variety

The Screen Actors Guild — the predecessor union to SAG-AFTRA — sued Federal Insurance in 2011 alleging breach of contract under the terms of the policy covering legal claims, which was in effect when Osmond filed his action in 2007. SAG sought damages of $330,000 on each of two claims, plus its additional costs.

Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell in “Leave It to Beaver,” sued over SAG’s handling of “foreign levies” collected from countries through mechanisms such as taxes on video sales and rentals to compensate copyright holders for reuse. The guild finalized a settlement in February 2011, under which he received $15,000 and his lawyers received $315,000.

The appeals panel ruled that union’s claim for reimbursement violates state law because it’s required to pay the foreign funds to members.

“Under California law, a pre-existing obligation is not a covered loss,” the panel wrote.

“As SAG admittedly had a pre-existing obligation to pay the foreign levy funds to the state court plaintiffs, SAG’s failure to honor that obligation is not a covered Loss as a matter of law. Accordingly, SAG is not entitled to coverage for the $330,000.00 in attorney’s fees assessed against SAG in the state court case,
because the award was based on state court plaintiffs’ success in securing payment of the pre-existing obligation.”

The Osmond settlement brought about judicial oversight of SAG’s handling of “foreign levies,” which started flowing in 1989 after the U.S. agreed to the terms of the Berne Convention establishing the right of authorship for individuals.

Osmond’s suit contended that SAG overstepped its authority to make collection agreements with the collecting societies and never disclosed them until he and Jack Klugman threatened to file suit. A similar suit on the foreign levies issue was filed in 2005 against the WGA West by William Richert and was settled in 2010; another was filed in 2006 against the DGA by William Webb, who settled in 2008.

SAG-AFTRA was sued in 2013 by 15 members including former SAG president Ed Asner, alleging extensive misconduct in its handling of foreign levies and residuals and had improperly withheld funds and stonewalled requests for information about $132 million held in trust by the union. A federal judge dismissed the suit in 2014 but said the plaintiffs could re-visit the issue.

SAG-AFTRA said in 2013 that it had paid $17.5 million to actors over the prior six years that would have otherwise never been paid out.

More Film

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    '1917,' 'Succession' Among Top PGA Award Winners

    “1917” continued its string of major awards season wins on Saturday night, earning the Producers Guild of America award for best picture. Coupled with its win for best picture, drama at the Golden Globes, the WWI movie is officially the front runner for Oscar’s top prize. “It’s a film that is a tribute to all [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho, Jane Rosenthal, David

    Netflix Praised by 'The Irishman,' 'Marriage Story' Filmmakers at Producers Guild Panel

    Streaming giant Netflix received strong support from filmmakers behind “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” at the Producers Guild of America’s nominees panel on Saturday at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Jane Rosenthal, one of “The Irishman” producers, said Netflix embraced the vision that she and Martin Scorsese had for the $170 million film. [...]

  • Gabriel Harel on MyFFF ‘The Night

    Gabriel Harel Discusses Dystopic Parable ‘The Night of the Plastic Bags’

    With his first short film, the animated “Yùl and the Snake,” Gabriel Harel won Europe’s Cartoon d’Or for the continent’s best animated short film, given at the 2016 Cartoon Forum in Toulouse. Now, Harel’s awaited sophomore effort, the animated “The Night of the Plastic Bags,” competes at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, and is available on a swathe [...]

  • MyFrenchFilmFestival: Profiling Benjamin Crotty’s Short ‘Nicolas

    ‘The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin’: Nationalism Wrapped in Charisma

    Winner of Locarno’s Signs of Life section, Benjamin Crotty’s “The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin” has enjoyed more than 12 months of festival success and critical acclaim as it reaches the end of its festival run at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival. A modern take on one of France’s most influential yet widely unknown characters, the film headlines [...]

  • Alexander Ludwig

    Alexander Ludwig on Sharing his Recovery Journey, Playing the 'Bad Boys' Tech Guy

    With his towering height and stature, Alexander Ludwig looks every bit the action star, first appearing as Cato in “The Hunger Games,” and more recently as fierce Norse Viking chief Bjorn Ironside on History Channel’s “Vikings” and in “Bad Boys for Life,” the third installment of the “Bad Boys” franchise, with Will Smith and Martin [...]

  • Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Scores Big With $66 Million Launch

    “Bad Boys for Life” is showing plenty of power at the North American box office with an impressive  launch of around $66 million at 3,740 venues over the four-day holiday weekend. Sony’s sequel to 1995’s “Bad Boys” and 2003’s “Bad Boys II” far exceeded the studio’s pre-release forecasts of a $38 million weekend. The film, [...]

  • A Bump Along the Way Movie

    'A Bump Along the Way': Film Review

    While “Derry Girls” continues to be the last word in young, raucous female rebellion on the Emerald Isle, “A Bump Along the Way” has a little something to add. Sin the same Northern Irish city as the hit Netflix sitcom, but shedding the ’90s nostalgia for the Snapchat age, Shelly Love’s appealing, unassuming debut feature [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content