January 7, 2019

Court of Appeal Strikes Key Claims Against ITV

Munger, Tolles & Olson represented British production company ITV in winning an appellate victory against Scott and Deirdre Gurneys, co-creators of “Duck Dynasty” and other programs, in a lawsuit over control of Gurney Productions.

After buying a majority stake in Gurney Productions in 2012, ITV fired the Gurneys and sued them on the grounds of self-dealing, fraudulent concealment and breach of contract. The Gurneys filed a cross-complaint alleging they were forced out and pressured to sell their remaining stake in the company at a discounted price.

Munger, Tolles & Olson was retained after a trial court gave the Gurneys control over the company, notwithstanding ITV’s purchase of it. In a prior appeal, ITV won reversal of that injunction in a published decision.

ITV filed an anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation motion to strike portions of the Gurneys’ complaint, arguing that two 2016 board meetings counted as “settlement negotiations,” a key category of protected activity under the anti-SLAPP law. On Jan. 7, 2019, a California appeals court held that ITV had accurately described the nature of the meetings, and that the Gurneys had not. Accordingly, the court of appeal directed the trial court to strike key claims and allegations from the Gurneys’ complaint against ITV.

The parties are scheduled to go to trial in March 2019.

The team representing ITV includes Fred A. Rowley Jr., Mark B. Helm, Mark R. Yohalem, John L. Schwab, Thomas Rubinsky and Nicholas S. Dufau.