(CN) - An agent may be entitled to half of the profits from MSNBC's "The Ed Show" if he can convince a jury that the eponymous talking head intended to partner with him, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
Michael Queen sued Ed Schultz, a radio show host turned T.V. personality, last year for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud.
He claimed he spent $11,500 of his own cash to finance Schultz's pilot and shopped it around to the networks, and that Schultz told him in an email: "any TV deal will obviously involve you. I will not do a TV deal without your involvement and that includes a financial involvement. Rest assured we are together on this."
When Schultz accepted MSNBC's offer to host "The Ed Show," however, he allegedly cut off all ties with Queen.
Schultz counterclaimed that Queen defamed him in the press, and stalked him and his wife.
A federal judge dismissed both men's claims in 2012, finding that the verbal agreements at the heart of the case were too nebulous to litigate in court.
Schultz ultimately reimbursed Queen for the money he spent on the pilot, but Queen had also sought a share in "The Ed Show," which he valued at $100,000.
He submitted an email exchange with Schultz that shows the two discussed giving Queen a 25 percent ownership stake in the show.
The D.C. Circuit found Friday that Queen should be allowed to present his partnership theory to a jury.
"If Queen can show that he and Schultz became partners in the development of a television show, Queen can potentially prevail on the claim that he is entitled to a percentage of Schultz's compensation from MSNBC for 'The Ed Show,' regardless of whether Schultz was an independent contractor/employee with respect to MSNBC," Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote for a three-judge panel.
Queen's claims that he developed the concept for the show, marketed it to MSNBC executives and paid for the production of the pilot are supported by a sworn statement from a third man, Max Schindler, who dropped out of the project, and seeks nothing from Schultz now.
"Queen's failure to demonstrate an enforceable agreement with regard to compensation - while fatal to his ordinary breach-of-contract claim - does not defeat his argument that he and Schultz formed a partnership under District of Columbia law," the ruling states. "In the context of a partnership agreement, the default provisions in the District of Columbia Code can supply certain essential terms to which the parties never explicitly agreed."
The partnership theory could land Queen with 50 percent of the profits from "The Ed Show," far more than he claimed he was owed under the verbal contract.
"Insofar as the default provisions of District of Columbia partnership law might lead to 'harsh results,' the parties could always enter into a partnership agreement that would supersede the default rules," Srinivasan wrote.
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