Canadian Network Sues A&E for $34 Million

MANHATTAN (CN) — The A&E network defrauded the French-speaking Canadian producers of “Killer Kids” of their production rights, Planète Bleue Télévision says in federal lawsuit demanding $33.6 million for tricky contract language.

Planète Bleue claims producers at A&E took advantage of the smaller French-speaking Canadian production company’s language barrier and trust to acquire worldwide rights to its documentary series “Killer Kids” at a lower price than Planète Bleue Télévision had offered.

It claims that A&E drafted an agreement that denied Planète Bleue rights of first refusal despite A&E’s in-house counsel and non-attorney executives’ repeated assurances to negotiator Jean Leclerc that Planète Bleue’s rights of first refusal were “enshrined in the contract language drafted by AETN [A&E Television Networks].”

“That good faith reliance on misrepresentations leading to misunderstanding of the legal document plaintiff signed allowed defendant AETN to obtain the very result originally discussed, but rejected at the time, because the price was too high: De facto acquisition of worldwide rights to ‘Killer Kids,’” according to the Dec. 2 complaint.

Planète Bleue claims that A&E engaged nonparty 44 Blue to produce the fall 2012/spring 2013 series of “Killer Kids” before the ink was dry on the A&E deal with Planète Bleue. It claims that 44 Blue produced multiple episodes of “Killer Kids” without Planète Bleue’s proper artistic credits in the credit sequence.

Planète Bleue claims that A&E and 44 Blue steamrolled it “in a complex and concerted series of corporate bureaucratic maneuvers, delays, purported mistakes and outright deceptive acts and statements designed to favor 44 Blue over PBTV and at the same time delay, stymie and block production by PBTV.”

A&E also obtained trademark rights to “Killer Kids” before its contract with Planète Bleue was fully executed, the complaint states.

Planète Bleue values the first refusal rights to six series of 26 episodes at $31.2 million, with an additional cumulative 3% escalation clause, resulting in a total value of the contract of $33,635,731 in gross revenue.

The 33-page lawsuit seeks damages and punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of faith and fair dealing, reformation and unilateral mistake/fraud.

Co-defendant Aon Corp., an insurer, and Albert G. Ruben Insurance Services are accused of aiding and abetting A&E and 44 Blue’s production of “Killer Kids” episodes without Planète Bleue’s rights of first refusal.

The first season of “Killer Kids” aired on A&E’s Biography Channel, the second, third and fourth seasons on A&E’s Lifetime Movie Network channel, LMN.

Quebec-based Planète Bleue Télévision was founded in 1997. Other documentary series it has produced include “Occult Crimes,” “The Greatest Journeys on Earth,” and “Portal to the Unknown.”

Representatives for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Planète Bleue Télévision is represented by Michael J. Doyle in New York City.

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