Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Doc Says He Was Rolled for a Christian Movie

LOS ANGELES (CN) - An 88-year-old USC sports surgeon claims in court that a film producer induced him to invest $658,000 in a Christian-themed movie that was never made.

In the Superior Court lawsuit, Dr. Chester Semel, a general surgeon at USC athletics, claims he gave $658,000 to John McAdams' film project "Gideon's Gift," only to learn that McAdams used the money to settle a dispute with his sister, actress and producer Mary Jean Bentley, or gave the money to other people in his family.

McAdams died at 36 in May 2012 in Los Angeles.

Semel sued McAdams' mother Grace McAdams, his sister Bentley and his brother William McAdams. He also sued JMAC Productions, Gideon Gift Film Partners and Seven Star Pictures, alleging violation of California's corporation code, aiding and abetting, civil conspiracy and assistance in financial elder abuse.

Semel says he invested in "Gideon's Gift," a movie about a "Christmas miracle," after John McAdams claimed the movie would open on 500 screens in November 2011 for a projected box office haul of $48 million.

Semel says McAdams touted a plan to promote the movie with Christian leaders and backers.

After he was promised producer credit on the movie, Semel says, he wired JMAC $125,000, $50,000, $300,000, $70,000, $38,000 and $75,000.

McAdams told Semel the film would receive state funding, a $1 million advance from an international distributor, and that major studios would pay a seven-figure advance for domestic rights, according to the lawsuit.

But despite his $658,000 investment, to "Dr. Semel's knowledge the film was never made," the 11-page complaint states.

Semel claims he found out later that Bentley had threatened to take legal action against her brother to stop the project because she held the rights to the "Gideon's Gift" novel and screenplay, written by Karen Kingsbury.

McAdams had asked Semel for the investment so he could settle with his sister, the surgeon claims in the lawsuit.

"John McAdams falsely represented to Dr. Semel that he had secured the other sources of financing set forth in the above emails to induce Dr. Semel to make loan investments," the complaint states. "However, on information and belief, these other sources of financing had not been secured. John McAdams failed to disclose that, without other financing, all of Dr. Semel's loans would become uncollectible and worthless."

Semel claims that Grace McAdams, Bentley and William McAdams all benefited financially from his investment. He claims that only during his probate action against the McAdams family did he learn that rights to "Gideon's Gift" reverted to Kingsbury if production did not begin by December 2011.

"At no time did John McAdams disclose to Dr. Semel that the rights to make 'Gideon's Gift' were subject to reversion for failure to timely commence principal photography," the lawsuit states.

Semel wants his $658,000 back, with interest, plus punitive damages and attorney's fees.

He is represented by Jay Spillane with Spillane Trial Group of Sherman Oaks.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.