WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge shot down a motion for a new jury trial in a long-standing legal dispute with former MSNBC host Ed Schultz over ownership of “The Ed Show.”
In May, the D.C. Circuit Court dismissed Michael Queen’s suit breach of contract and other claims against Schultz. However it granted a jury trial because the parties’ “conduct and communications” might have indicated a partnership.
The jury found in favor of Schultz, determining that the parties never actually formed a business partnership.
“The evidence at trial revealed that this was not a close case; the evidence for the defendant was overwhelming,” the Aug. 5 memorandum opinion said, with U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell denying all of Queen’s claims for a new trial.
Queen met Schultz in 2008 in an NBC studio, when Shultz appeared as a guest on “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Queen, who worked as an NBC cameraman, encouraged Schultz to create his own TV show.
The two engaged in conversations about it, and Queen invested $11,000 to produce a pilot show for Schultz.
Queen originally claimed that he served as Schultz’s agent, and was ditched after Schultz secured a contract with MSNBC. He claimed that because he got Schultz his TV show and invested his own money to produce the pilot, a partnership existed between them.
But Howell said that in his earlier motion for partial summary judgment, Queen’s allegations in relation to his perceived partnership with Schultz changed frequently. He only pleaded a single breach of contract claim and failed to meet the burden of demonstrating a partnership, Howell found.
“The plaintiff may not now allege that he was prejudiced by his own shifting theories and factual assertions and should not receive a new trial because of such obfuscation,” Howell wrote. “To reward the plaintiff with a new trial for such behavior would be a miscarriage of justice.”
Queen initially filed for breach of contract, breach of implied-in-fact contract, fraud in the inducement, tortuous interference with business relationships and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In his motion for a new trial, Queen alleged jury bias and said the court should have struck jurors who believed that an enforceable contract must be in writing. He also challenged jury instructions that excluded the latter part of the D.C. code that governs partnerships.
The code says “the association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners of a business for profit shall form a partnership, whether or not the persons intend to form a partnership.”
Jury instructions excluded the part about intent, but Howell said this was justified because “the parties’ subjective intent does not determine formation of a partnership.”
Queen also objected to evidentiary rulings during the trial and what he claimed were “golden-rule” arguments made by Schultz’s attorney in his opening statement that appealed to jurors’ emotions rather than evidence. Howell dismissed those arguments.
In the recent motion, Queen also objected to closing arguments made by the defense that Schultz’s “theory of the case amounted to a form of “indentured servitude.”
“The plaintiff doth protest too much,” Howell wrote, noting that Queen did not object to the statements at trial.
“The defendant employed two brief passing references to indentured servitude in order to highlight the absurdity of the plaintiff’s theory that a single brief hallway introduction could result in an open-ended business partnership entitling the plaintiff to the proceeds of any future television show starring the defendant,” Howell wrote.
Queen also raised objections over Schultz deleting his personal emails, alleging that he destroyed evidence. However, Howell had previously found that this was not purposeful and ordered the jury to disregard that allegation.
Furthermore, Queen did not object to that order at trial either, the opinion said.
MSNBC canceled “The Ed Show” and Schultz left the network on July 30.
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