A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Monday issued a tentative ruling tossing all but one of Max Baer Jr.’s five allegations against CBS, saying she wanted to review the issues further before making a final decision.
Judge Dalila Corral Lyons took under submission a motion by CBS to dismiss a lawsuit in which Baer, the actor who played Jethro on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” alleges the network and an Iowa restaurant chain settled a legal dispute in a way that interfered with his chance to financially benefit from his role in the show.
Baer, 77, was present in court with his attorney, Jon Freis, but they declined to comment after the hearing.
Baer played Jethro Bodine on the show, which aired on CBS from 1962 to 1971 and in reruns for years afterward. His lawsuit, filed last December, states that he negotiated a deal with CBS in 1991 for the rights to use his name and other elements from the show to create a chain of restaurants, hotels and casinos.
The suit alleges that unknown to Baer or CBS, the Jethro’s BBQ restaurant chain in Des Moines capitalized on the features of the iconic show, including the names of the characters and how they appeared on the show.
CBS learned what the restaurant chain was doing in 2008, but instead of notifying Baer, the network entered into a secret settlement agreement with the eatery without filing a lawsuit or telling the plaintiff, according to Baer’s complaint.
The settlement released the restaurant chain from any obligation to pay damages to Baer, according to the actor’s court papers.
Baer did not find out about the CBS-Jethro’s BBQ settlement until 2013, and the restaurants continue using elements of the show to this day, the lawsuit alleges.
In her tentative ruling, Lyons said she was inclined to dismiss Baer’s allegations for breach of contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, fraud and conversion, leaving alive only his claim for a court declaration of rights between the parties.
Freis argued the tentative ruling would deprive Baer of any compensation. He said CBS has no right to make agreements with third parties, but only to collect royalties.
But Lyons said she was not convinced after reading briefs from both sides that Baer should be able to proceed with all his claims.
“The problem you have is the complaint does not provide for any of the rights you’ve alleged,” Lyons told Freis.
Attorney Tami Kameda Sims, on behalf of CBS, said there is nothing in CBS’s agreement with Baer preventing the network from settling any claims involving other parties.
“What Baer really wants to do is rewrite the contract,” Sims said.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” dealt with the character of Jed Clampett — played by the late Buddy Ebsen — and his family, who move from their Texas home to California after Clampett strikes oil. Baer portrayed Clampett’s nephew.
— City News Service