By The Associated Press
A California judge has overturned a $128 million award for punitive damages to the former stars and producers of the long-running Fox crime drama “Bones” in a clash over profits, delivering a major victory to Twentieth Century Fox Television.
The ruling, by Judge Richard E. Rico of Los Angeles County Superior Court, overturned a private arbitrator’s decision in February that Fox had pocketed tens of millions of dollars that should have gone to the “Bones” team. Judge Rico left in place a $50 million award for compensatory damages, interest and lawyers fees.
A Twentieth Century Fox Television spokesman welcomed the ruling. “We are pleased with the court’s decision to strike punitive damages from the award and vindicating our position,” he said.
The arbitrator’s decision to award such a huge sum highlighted a longstanding complaint among even highly paid Hollywood players that they are not adequately compensated for their work by studios, which have been criticized for what some consider questionable accounting practices.
Judge Rico’s ruling, issued on Thursday, is the latest turn in a dispute that started in 2015, when David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, the stars of “Bones” from 2005 to 2017, sued the studio. The actors said Fox had denied them profits by licensing the show to the company’s television division and to Hulu at below-market rates. Mr. Boreanaz and Ms. Deschanel were joined in the action by Barry Josephson, the show’s executive producer, and the author Kathy Reichs, who wrote the novels on which the show was based.
In his ruling in the dispute, the arbitrator, Peter D. Lichtman, accused several senior Fox executives — including 21st Century Fox’s president, Peter Rice, and Dana Walden, a Fox Television Group co-chief executive — of perjuring themselves by giving “false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts” and of engaging in a “pattern of deceit.” Mr. Rice and Ms. Walden now occupy senior leadership roles at the Walt Disney Company after its acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment properties.An independent press needs your supportDiscover the impact of our journalism with unlimited access to The Times
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Daniel A. Saunders, said he planned to appeal Judge Rico’s ruling.