A judge ruled Tuesday that a lawsuit against Walt Disney Pictures that alleges the studio underpaid a widow’s late husband in the profits of a 1989 Tom Hanks comedy and also interfered with an accounting firm’s contract with the woman can move forward.
Christine Wagner, widow and heir of producer Raymond Wagner, and the accounting company Robinson & Co. filed suit in April 2015. The widow, who chose Robinson & Co. to perform an audit, alleges Disney owes her money from her husband’s production of “Turner & Hooch,” a film about a police officer and a dog.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Samantha Jessner denied a motion by Disney attorneys to dismiss four of the lawsuit’s seven causes of action, including those alleging intentional interference with contractual relations and a request for an accounting. The motion did not challenge the plaintiffs’ claims for breach of contract and fraud.
Actor Richard Dreyfuss originally was a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, but he dropped his claims a day later. His name remains in the caption of the lawsuit over the objection of Disney.
According to the complaint, Disney initially refused a demand by Wagner to allow Robinson & Co. to perform an audit. The accounting firm is one of the few firms that regularly audit Hollywood studios, according to the complaint.
“Simply put, Disney does not want Robinson to audit it because Robinson is one of the top participation auditing firms in the entertainment industry,” the suit states. “Robinson is tough, tenacious and gets results.”
When Disney finally relented after the lawsuit was filed and allowed Robinson & Co. to perform an audit, the company concluded that Disney earned $32 million in revenues from the film, that it had been profitable since 1991 and that Christine Wagner was denied her share, the suit states.
Raymond Wagner died in March 2014 at age 89. He was forced to borrow money from his children to survive during the final years of his life and his widow now has to borrow from her stepchildren to live, the suit states.
–City News Service
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