MANHATTAN (CN) – Calling it “bad faith” and a “blatant case of forum shopping,” a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that A&E Television Networks filed against two production companies that claimed the cable channel had stolen their idea for the TV show, “Steven Seagal: Lawman.”
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell ruled that the dispute should be tried in California state court.
Genuine Entertainment and The Idea Factory claim they created the concept for Seagal’s “reality” show and pitched it to A&E, “which liked the idea so much that it pushed them aside and worked directly with Seagal and his agents to develop it,” the ruling states.
“Steven Seagal: Lawman” chronicles the former action star’s adventures as a part-time sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana.
The production companies sent A&E a demand letter giving the cable channel 10 days to settle the dispute before they took their claims to Los Angeles Superior Court. But “rather than respond to defendants, A&E decided to beat them to the courthouse,” the judge wrote.
“The action’s purpose was, quite obviously, to shift adjudication of the claims from a California state court to a New York federal court,” the opinion states.
In fact, A&E simply “wrote out its defenses to the claims raised in the demand letter, packaged them into a complaint seeking declaratory relief” and filed it in New York four days later, the judge said.
“The next day, defendants initiated their suit in Los Angeles,” Judge Holwell wrote. “A&E moved to stay that action on the ground that this case was filed first, but the state court denied the motion, finding that A&E had initiated the declaratory action in bad faith.”
In addition to citing forum shopping, Judge Holwell dismissed because the parties agreed that the California action encompasses all of the issues raised in the New York federal case.
“Indeed, A&E’s complaint does nothing more than assert defenses to the claims brought against it in California,” the judge concluded.
Genuine Entertainment and The Idea Factory also claim they pitched other ideas to A&E, unsuccessfully, including a series that would feature Seagal, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme living together in a house.