A judge ruled that ABC and a network executive will remain defendants in a lawsuit brought by a pastor and a screenwriter who allege they gave Oprah Winfrey the idea for the “Greenleaf” megachurch drama series for the Oprah Winfrey Network, but were not compensated.
Pastor Lester Eugene Barrie and Shannan Lynette Wynn filed the breach-of-contract suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 17. The complaint naming Winfrey, ABC Television Group, ABC head of talent and casting Ayo Davis and other parties mirrors a lawsuit filed previously in federal court in Los Angeles that was dismissed July 13.
In a Jan. 16 ruling, Judge Monica Bachner overruled a motion by ABC and Davis to dismiss them as defendants. The network and Davis maintained the lawsuit lacked sufficient information to support the plaintiffs’ contract claims.
“In light of the allegations in the complaint, the court cannot find that, as a matter of law, ABC is not bound by the agreement,” Bachner wrote.
The claims against Winfrey were not part of the ABC/Davis motion. In a previous ruling regarding those allegations, the judge said she reviewed three episodes of “Greenleaf” and found “substantial similarity” in setting and theme between the show and the plaintiffs’ project pitched to Winfrey in 2014 called “Justice and Glory.” She said the two shows involve a “powerful family dynasty and their megachurch.”
The plaintiffs allege that Winfrey rejected “Justice & Glory,” then later launched “Greenleaf” in 2016 on her cable television network.
“Defendants used plaintiffs’ ideas and materials in `Greenleaf…,”’ the suit alleges. “However, defendants have not compensated plaintiffs for the use of such ideas and materials.”
The suit states that while allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination has brought Hollywood under increasing scrutiny, the “victimization” of hard-working writers also must be addressed.
“Creative theft, in Hollywood, has become a cottage industry,” the suit says.