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Don Johnson Productions, Inc. v. Rysher Entertainment (2012)

October 10, 2012

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In this breach of contract action arising out of the television show Nash Bridges, Horvitz & Levy obtained a published opinion reducing a $52.3 million judgment to $15 million based on jury misconduct and trial court error.

In the action, Don Johnson Productions (Johnson)—a corporation formed by the former Miami Vice star— sued Rysher Entertainment, the co-producer of Nash Bridges, alleging that Johnson was owed an additional share of profits from Nash Bridges based on a contract provision that gave Johnson a one-half copyright interest once the network had purchased 66 episodes of the show. Based on that contract provision, which Johnson argued preempted the contract’s detailed revenue sharing formula, the jury awarded Johnson $23.2 million in damages, and the trial court awarded an additional $29.1 million in prejudgment interest.

Rysher retained Horvitz & Levy to represent it on appeal from the judgment. In the unanimous portion of its decision, the Court of Appeal accepted our argument that the jury committed misconduct when, after determining that Johnson’s damages were $15 million, the jurors agreed to increase the award by adding on $8.3 million of prejudgment interest that was calculated by one juror on her cell phone. The Court of Appeal also agreed with our argument that an additional $29.1 million prejudgment interest award by the trial court was defective because the court failed to prepare a specification of reasons in connection with its new trial order granting prejudgment interest.

In dissent, Justice Mosk wrote that the majority should have accepted our argument that the action was entirely barred by the statute of limitations. Justice Mosk also expressed reservations about the portion of the majority decision upholding the jury’s interpretation of the contract, and would have reversed the judgment in its entirety.