A Los Angeles court has awarded $12 million to actor Brendan Fraser, director and writer Paul Haggis, co-writer Bobby Moresco and producer Mark Harris in a lawsuit they had filed over the proceeds of the Academy Award-winning 2004 movie “Crash.”
They had sued producer Bob Yari, claiming he had diverted funds to third parties, including six companies that he owned, controlled or manipulated. The judge found that Yari had improperly deducted $1,300 in expenses for his own tickets to the Oscars and the Golden Globe Awards from the “gross proceeds” of the film, and $40,000 for his sponsorship of the Independent Spirit Awards and the IFP Gotham Awards.
Other questionable expenses included $10,000 for a defense expert in the lawsuit, $25,000 in other legal fees, a $150,000 legal settlement with actress Sandra Bullock, and an $8,300 expense for an ad in Daily Variety.
The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs over the summer, but the judgment amount was not awarded until last Friday (see Judge Rules in Favor of Brendan Fraser and Paul Haggis in Hollywood Accounting Lawsuit).
“This is a case that involves motion picture accounting,” said Richard L. Charnley, a partner at the Los Angeles offices of the law firm Ropers Majeski Kohn Bentley PC, who acted as lead counsel in the case. “The judge ruled that the distributor, the co-producer and financier had deliberately adopted a series of bogus maneuvers for the purposes of denying my clients’ profit share. He essentially said their interpretations were incorrect and they were implemented in bad faith. He took a look at everybody and said the defendants owed my clients around $12 million.”
He has been working on the case since November 2007. “The impact of the ruling goes beyond this specific case and sets new standards for the entertainment industry,” Charnley said in a statement. “First, the court held that a distributor cannot engage in self-serving interpretation of contract terms in order to deny profit participants their share. Second, the court held that distributors cannot create interlocking fictional business structures in order to divert cash from a production and thus reduce the profit participants' share. We are pleased the court saw through the defendants' manipulation and schemes, brought our clients a measure of justice and fired a shot across the bow of those in the industry who may wish to engage in such sharp practices in the future.”
Yari has also been sued by other plaintiffs involved with the movie, including co-producers Cathy Shulman and Tom Nunan, and actor Matt Dillon. Charnley said he did not represent other parties who had separate claims.
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