Court Affirms Celador $320 Million Verdict Against Disney in "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" Case

LOS ANGELES (December 4, 2012) – On December 3, 2012, a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a Memorandum of Disposition affirming the jury verdict in favor of Celador International, Ltd. against Disney for $320 million. 

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 "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"  In reaching its verdict in Celador International Ltd. v. Walt Disney Co., 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 Court awarded $50 million in prejudgment interest to Celador, bringing the total to $320 million in damages. On December 21, 2010, the trial court denied Walt Disney Co.'s bid to overturn the jury verdict. The Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s verdict today in a brief 6-page decision. 

Paul Smith, chairman of Celador, said, “Our litigation objectives − to receive what we were fairly entitled to under our contract and to be made substantially whole − were realized by the jury’s verdict and today by the Court of Appeals’ decision. I am pleased that justice has been done.” 

Celador’s trial lawyers Roman M. Silberfeld and Bernice Conn, partners with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. in Los Angeles said, “We’re exceptionally gratified for our client that the Court of Appeals has affirmed the trial verdict and judgment. Both the trial judge’s and an attentive jury’s thoughtful and careful assessment of the law and facts were upheld today.”