If it seems like ages since the TV show Nash Bridges was airing regularly, that's because it is. The last regular season episode aired in 2001.
So when show star Don Johnson sued in 2009, saying he was still owed millions of dollars, the production company quite naturally raised the statute of limitations. Unfortunately for Rysher Entertainment and subsequent owners Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, Rysher had agreed to toll the statute of limitations way back in 2002.
Although the California Code of Civil Procedure requires that waivers of the statute of limitations be renewed every four years, the same rule does not apply to tolling agreements, a divided California Court of Appeal ruled Monday in Don Johnson Productions v. Rysher Entertainment.
That issue of first impression will be worth $15 million to Johnson, who claims 50 percent ownership of the copyright, along with his guaranteed income of $167,000 per episode and 50 percent of the show's profits.
Rysher and the other defendants did pretty well overall, getting what was originally a $57 million judgement reduced to $15 million. The $37 million differential was all prejudgment interest -- some inappropriately awarded by jurors, and some inappropriately awarded by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern after he'd entered judgment.
But if dissenting Justice Richard Mosk had had his way, Johnson's entire award would have been wiped out as untimely. "The same policy principles apply to agreements whether labeled as waivers of, or as tolling of, the statute of limitations," he wrote.
Christopher Landau of Kirkland & Ellis argued the appeal for Johnson. Horvitz & Levy's John Taylor argued for Rysher, while Theodore Boutrous of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher argued for 2929 Entertainment and O'Melveny & Myers represented Qualia Capital, the successor owners that the court found were controlled by Cuban and Wagner.