New Trial Ordered to Sort Out Fumbled Movie Deal

     (CN) – A movie production company should not have won $1.7 million after investors sank a deal to make a movie starring William Hurt, a Texas appeals court ruled.
     Pawan Grover, a physician, co-wrote a screenplay titled “97 Minutes” about a terrorist attack. He assigned the rights to his company, PAV Entertainment, and formed a production company called 87 Minutes Productions LLC.
     Hurt, who won a Best Actor Oscar in 1985 for his performance in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” agreed to appear in the film. Grover’s attorney, Maureen Doherty, suggested that Grover join forces with another client, Sutapa Ghosh, who was also trying to produce a film about a terrorist attack called “Ex-Pats.”
     Grover and Ghosh agreed to form Cinemawalla 97 Minutes LLC and produce “97 Minutes.” The deal fell apart, however, when the financial backers of Ghosh’s movie project did not release the funding for the combined movie idea. Ghosh said her backers dropped out because Grover would not deliver notarized copies of the combined company’s assignment.
     Grover sued Ghosh for breach of contract, fraud and conversion. A jury in Harris County, Texas, ultimately awarded Grover $1.7 million in actual and exemplary damages.
     Last week the Houston-based 14th District Court of Appeals reversed judgment on the breach of contract and conversion claims since the parties’ agreement was not in writing.
     “A promise by an owner or member of an LLC to transfer a tangible or intangible benefit to the LLC – for example, transferring cash or rendering services to the LLC – must be in writing and signed to be enforced,” Justice Jeff Brown wrote for a three-member panel.
     The court ordered a new trial on the fraud claim, ruling that “the evidence is sufficient to support some out-of-pocket damages” but not the $825,000 the jury awarded Grover for past expenses.

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