Earlier this year, a ruling was issued that the Los Angeles Times says "sent shock waves through the television industry": a nearly $180 million judgment payable to four plaintiffs—including stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz—involved with the Fox TV show Bones. The plaintiffs had hit Fox with a lawsuit in 2015 that accused the 20th Century Fox Television production studio of shortchanging them out of millions in residual payments. Now, in what Variety is calling a "major victory" for Fox, a Los Angeles judge has overturned a significant portion of that ruling, nixing the $128 million punitive damages award. He left in place the $50 million that had been awarded in compensatory damages, attorney fees, and interest.
The profit participation case involved a claim from Deschanel, Boreanaz, a producer, and Kathy Reichs (the author whose books the show is based on) that Fox had cheated them out of residual payments by charging extremely low licensing fees to Fox affiliates Hulu and Fox Broadcasting. In February, arbitrator Peter Lichtman had called Fox's conduct "reprehensible" in handing down his $178.7 million judgment against it, saying it took a "cavalier attitude toward its wrongdoing." But Fox hired pit bull attorney Daniel Petrocelli to contest the award. On Thursday, LA County Superior Court Judge Richard Rico nixed the punitive damages part, agreeing with Petrocelli that Lichtman had overstepped his authority and tried to administer his "own brand of industrial justice." Fox says it's "pleased" with the ruling, which "[vindicates] our position." The plaintiffs will appeal. (Read more Bones stories.)