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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No Appellate Review of Alvin & Chipmunks Case

(CN) - The 9th Circuit refused Monday to hear a dispute over the rights to the movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel."

The daughter-in-law of Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian Sr. says Twentieth Century Fox locked her and Bagdasarian Productions out of the "Squeakquel" while illegally using "scenes, dialogue, and other expressions" that she contributed to the final screenplay. In addition to creating the Chipmunks, Bagdasarian lent his voice to the character of David Seville.

Janice Karman, who married Bagdasarian's son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., filed suit over a 2004 agreement that gave Fox the rights to develop and produce "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies. The agreement stipulated that Fox would hire Karman and Bagdasarian as producers. The agreement also said that any disputes would be "submitted to a general non-jury reference."

When Karman sued, a Los Angeles federal judge stayed the case so Fox could send it to a referee.

The Pasadena-based federal appeals court rejected Karman and Bagdasarian Production's interim appeal Monday, which argued that the agreement had precluded the court's sufficient review of the claims.

Under California law, the decisions of referees "may be excepted to and reviewed in like manner as if made by the court," the three-judge panel found.

"The reference is thus not the effective end of these proceedings, because the case may be reviewed by the district court upon a motion for new trial or other post-judgment motions," Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote for the unanimous panel.

"We conclude that the district court's order is not final, the plaintiffs have not been put 'out of court' by the order, and the collateral order doctrine is inapplicable because the decision to refer can be reviewed and, if incorrect, later remedied by this court," Hawkins added. "As such, the appeal is premature and we lack jurisdiction over it."

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