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‘Walking Dead’ Producers Lunge at AMC in NY

Waging its breach-of-contract war on a second front, the creators of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” sued the network Tuesday in New York.

MANHATTAN (CN) - Waging its breach-of-contract war on a second front, the creators of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” sued the network Tuesday in New York.

Led by producers Gale Ann Hurd and David Alpert, the four-count complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court comes just a day after AMC was hit with parallel claims in Los Angeles.

The lead plaintiff of the LA case is Robert Kirkman, who created “The Walking Dead” graphic novel.

As explained in Tuesday’s filing, the similar actions were filed because of jurisdiction exclusivity provisions contained in many of the plaintiffs’ various contracts.

Though Hurd and Alpert live in LA, they agreed to exclusive jurisdiction in New York when they signed their contracts to work on “The Walking Dead.”

Their profit-sharing claims meanwhile involve both “The Walking Dead” and two successful spinoff program, “Fear the Walking Dead,” and a talk-show-style program called “The Talking Dead,” which airs after every episode.

Hurd and Alpert note that the exclusivity provisions are not present in the contracts signed pertaining to the spinoffs.

“Each of the plaintiffs and nonparties is a California resident,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs’ and the nonparties’ contracts were largely entered into and performed in California, the majority of percipient and likely expert witnesses are in Los Angeles, and counsel for both sides are largely based in Los Angeles. In the interests of efficiency and the conservation of judicial resources, plaintiffs have requested that defendants waive the exclusive New York jurisdiction contractual provision and agree that the claims asserted in this action may be asserted in the preceding California action. In that event, plaintiffs will consent to dismissal without prejudice of this action and assert their claims in the California action.”

The allegations of Tuesday’s suit largely mirror that of Monday’s: that the steps AMC took to control the production and distribution of “The Walking Dead”  gave it a greater share of profits at the expense of the producers.

“When the production company and the network are part of the same conglomerate, as AMC Studios and AMC Network are here, there is a powerful financial incentive to keep the lion’s share of the profit at the network level and not pay a fair-market-value license fee to the production company – thereby depriving profit participants, like plaintiffs, of their fair share of the series’ profits,” both complaints say.

In reaction to the Monday lawsuit, AMC had voiced “enormous respect” for Kirkman and the producers, but said their claims are “baseless and predictably opportunistic.”

Kishner & Miller attorney Scott Himes filed the Tuesday complaint in New York. Ronald Nessim with Bird Marella in Los Angeles is listed as of counsel.

Another section of the complaint notes relation to a 2013 case AMC faces in Manhattan Supreme Court, this one led by Frank Darabont and Creative Artists Agency.

“While there are many differences between this case and the Darabont/CAA proceeding, Frank Darabont and CAA each also have a contingent compensation interest in TWD and they assert, among other things, that the AMC defendants breached their contractual obligations in connection with AMC Network’s exhibition of TWD,” the complaint states, using abbreviations for the Creative Artists Agency and “The Walking Dead.”

“Percipient and expert discovery has concluded in the Darabont/CAA proceeding and the parties have filed cross-summary judgment motions, which are set for hearing on August 24, 2017,” the complaint continues.

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