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Judge Rejects ‘New Girl’ Idea-Theft Claim

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A federal judge has rejected the idea-theft claim of screenwriting partners who claim the creator of the sitcom "New Girl" copied their script.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson granted in part "New Girl" creator and show runner Elizabeth Meriwether's motion to dismiss Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold's second amended complaint, dismissing their claim for idea theft - breach of contract/theft or conversion.

The plaintiffs' attorney Francis Malofiy said that he disagreed with the judge's ruling but said he is "thrilled" that their copyright claims are still in play.

"We are looking forward to the fact the case will proceed on the main claims, which are the copyright claims," Malofiy said in a telephone interview.

The two screenwriters last year sued Meriwether and twenty-one other defendants including Fox and talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, in federal court.

They claimed that the "New Girl" producers had copied material from their 2006 pilot script "Square One" to create the show, previously titled "Chicks and Dicks."

In their 2014 court filing, Counts and Gold claimed they had sent their script to William Morris, where Meriwether and the show's executive producer Peter Chernin were both clients.

Meriwether had "ample access" to their screenplay, based on Count's real-life experiences after she divorced and shared a bachelor pad with three men, the complaint alleged.

In his 11-page order, Judge Wilson noted that the writers had admitted that they filed the lawsuit outside the two-year statutory period.

But the writers argued that they should be able to proceed with their claim because their first lawyer had represented "New Girl" television director Jacob Kasdan, and urged them to take a "paltry" $10,000 settlement.

Wilson, however, ruled that the writers knew of a potential conflict of interest and added that their lawyer had "successfully obtained" a settlement offer.

"Though plaintiffs may have found the $10,000 settlement offer insulting, this court does not believe that counsel's failure to elicit a larger sum indicates that they were 'incapacitated' by their conflict

of interest," Wilson wrote in the June 12 order.

Wilson noted that it had taken the writers almost a year to find counsel after firing their first attorney in 2012.

"Plaintiffs fail to show any compelling reason for the alleged year-long delay between dismissing their first lawyers and hiring their current representation," Wilson wrote, also rejecting the writers' idea-theft claim under a theory of conversion.

In March, Wilson declined a motion to dismiss the writers' claims for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement but rejected their claims for quantum meruit and equitable relief right of attribution.

Starring Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl" has aired over four seasons on Fox.

The defendants' law firm Loeb and Loeb did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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