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Lady Hogger Takes Aim at A&E TV

LIBERTY, Texas (CN) - A hog-huntin' woman claims in court that A&E TV Network stole her idea for a show called "Hogs, Dogs & Lace," and turned it into the A&E show, "Lady Hoggers."

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Crystal Ward, and her company Hogs Dogs & Lace, sued A&E Television Networks and Sharp Entertainment in Liberty County Court.

Ward also sued Christie Chreene and Julie Snead, whom she says she recruited and trained to hunt wild hogs for her own show, "Hogs, Dogs & Lace."

The complaint states: "Crystal Ward was born and raised in the wonderful city of Cleveland, Texas, where she and her family still reside today. Crystal Ward was raised in a culture where hard and perseverance is not only an attribute, but a basic way of life.

"Over time, Crystal Ward developed and honed various outdoor survival skills and talents. One such skills of Crystal Ward's is the ability to hunt and catch wild hogs.

"For various reasons, wild hogs have become problematic for the residents of various counties throughout the United States, including Liberty County, Texas."

Ward says she decided to use skills to "turn female hog hunting into a desirable occupation or serious sporting pursuit other women could respect and gravitate towards; in furtherance of this goal, Crystal would film and show her hog hunts on Internet streamed video and television."

Her vision, Ward says, was to create a TV show and educational video series featuring women hunting hogs with trained dogs.

"In 2009, Crystal Ward decided to begin recording her concept and actual hog hunts onto videotape," the complaint states.

"Crystal's Concept required forming a hogging team of up to three women. Crystal then began to interview various women to participate in her show as her hand-selected talent.

"After interviewing several candidates with varying levels of hog-hunting experience, Crystal ultimately settled on defendants Christine Chreene and Julie Snead, who had limited hog-hunting experience.

"Crystal believed she could help train and coach defendants Christie Chreene and Julie Snead in hog hunting skills for purposes of developing Crystal's Concept into a television series."

Ward says the three of them began filming their hog hunts, and "as the relationship was seemingly a good one" they formed a production and management company called Hogs Dogs & Lace LLC, with Ward as majority owner and managing member.

Ward says the company settled on "Hogs Dogs & Lace" as the name of their TV series, then later tentatively titled it "Hog Wild."

"In April, 2010, edited episodes and sizzle reels for promotion of the series were made available on various Internet sites," the complaint states. "An episode of the series then began airing on the Pursuit Channel, Direct-TV Channel 608.

"The series was growing a dedicated fan base, positive momentum and reviews, appealing to various demographics and audiences by empowering women in a male-dominated sport when women were traditionally not cast in such tough outdoor roles.

"The Pursuit Channel and HDL began discussions for picking up the series for a season(s)."

Ward says other companies showed interest in the series, and in June 2010 Hogs Dogs & Lace entered into a "Production and Shop" deal with 12 Forward Entertainment that gave 12 Forward the right to shop the series to TV networks.

12 Forward is not a party to the lawsuit.

Enter A&E Television Networks, which signed a deal with 12 Forward to produce a pilot or series around Ward's concept, Ward says.

Ward says she made it clear to both A&E and 12 Forward that she required compensation if they used her idea.

She says she had several conversations with A&E's production and creative executives about storylines for the network's version of her show, which would be called "Hog Wild," and which would feature her, Snead and Chreene hunting wild hogs.

"Production of the A&E derivative series based on Crystal Ward's original concept was geared up and due to commence on approximately the 16th of October, 2010," the complaint states.

Ward says her negotiations with A&E and 12 Forward hit a snag that ended with her declining their "buy-out" offer of $10,000, plus $1,000 per episode "with no creative credit."

So A&E did an end-around, Ward says, and decided to hire Snead and Chreene for an identical series called "Lady Hoggers."

A&E signed a deal with Sharp Entertainment to produce its copycat program, and began broadcasting it in November 2011 despite receiving her "notice of idea submission theft," Ward says.

Ward claims: "The series Lady Hoggers has aired at least (8) additional times from November 16, 2011 through May, 2012. A&E took the unusual action of airing Lady Hoggers on an expedited schedule of two or more original shows a week as opposed to the standard industry practice of airing one original show per week."

Ward seeks damages for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of confidence, fraud, negligence, conspiracy, theft of trade secrets and tortious interference.

She is represented by Jammy Kiggundu with Douglass & Kiggundu in Houston.

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