A judge said Tuesday that he is considering splitting into two trials a lawsuit filed by television personality Bill Nye, who alleges that Walt Disney Co. subsidiary Buena Vista Television engaged in questionable accounting and cheated him out profits from his show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”
During a lengthy hearing in which many issues in the case were covered, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan said he may hold a non-jury trial over the accounting issues and then let Nye’s fraud claims be heard by a jury.
Attorney A. Raymond Hamrick III, on behalf of Nye, said it makes more sense to have all the claims heard in one trial and save judicial resources.
The judge said, however, that Hamrick should “love” his idea of having two trials because if there are problems found with the defendants’ accounting, it would be easier for the attorney to make his argument to a jury.
Defense attorney Lucia Coyoca said she favored having two trials.
Cowan asked both sides to submit written arguments and said he will decide on March 30 whether to have one or two trials, as well as other remaining issues in the case. For now, trial is scheduled for May 18.
Nye filed the lawsuit in August 2017, alleging he and the other owners of the show are owed $28.1 million and Nye himself is owed at least $9.4 million.
Nye’s television series originally ran from 1992 to 1997 on PBS, and is still streamed on services such as Netflix. Buena Vista struck a deal to distribute, market and promote the series starting in 1993.
Nye alleges he was supposed to make 16.5% of net profits from the show. In 2008, Buena Vista sent him a royalty check for $585,123. According to the lawsuit, Buena Vista then told Nye there was an accounting error and that he actually owed the studio $496,111.
Nye alleges he was wary of the bookkeeping and tried to negotiate with Buena Vista, but the company failed to cooperate with his attempts to audit the earnings of the show. Nye alleges Buena Vista stopped making royalty payments in 2008 because of the dispute.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants did not act in good faith to resolve the dispute and maintains the companies of were part of a conspiracy to deceive Nye.