Court of Appeals Denies Disney’s Request For Further Review of Celador’s $320 Million Judgment Against Disney in “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” Case
February 26, 2013
LOS ANGELES (February 26, 2013) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today unanimously denied Disney’s Petition for rehearing and review of the $320 million jury verdict and judgment in favor of Celador International, Ltd. None of the 28 active Judges on the Ninth Circuit asked for a vote to consider rehearing by the full court. The Judgment in favor of Celador is the largest verdict in Hollywood history in a profit-sharing dispute.
The lawsuit, filed in 2004, arose over a dispute regarding profits from the highly successful game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" which became a smash hit in 1999 and took ABC from #4 to #1 in network rankings. The show was created by British company Celador International, Ltd. which licensed the rights to ABC Television and Buena Vista Television for North America. In return, Celador was to share fifty-fifty in expected profits from the show. But based on accountings generated by The Walt Disney Co., not only did the show − which aired on ABC for three years and has been in syndication for ten years − never make a profit, it generated over $70 million in "losses" for Disney. The jury found otherwise after a four week trial in Riverside, Calif.
On July 7, 2010, a federal jury awarded Celador International, Ltd. $269.4 million in damages after unanimously finding that Disney subsidiaries − ABC Television, Buena Vista Television, and Valleycrest Productions, Ltd. − had breached their contract with Celador to share profits from the enormously successful game show. In reaching its verdict, the nine member jury also unanimously found that the Defendants breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing that they owed to Celador. On September 27, 2010, the U.S. District Court awarded $50 million in prejudgment interest to Celador, bringing the total to $320 million in damages.
On December 21, 2010, the U.S. District Court denied Walt Disney Co.'s bid to overturn the jury verdict, and on December 3, 2012, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the jury’s verdict. Following today’s denial of Disney’s Petition for Rehearing by a full panel of the Ninth Circuit, Disney’s final resort is to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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