Judge tosses $70M verdict against Universal in 'Columbo' profits fight

A Los Angeles judge has set aside a verdict that would have made Universal write a big royalties check to the creators of 1970's TV show Columbo.

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The decision saves Universal more than $70 million for now. The judge has granted the studio a new trial, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In November 2017, Universal Studios was sued by William Link and the heirs of Richard Levinson, through their corporate entities alleging they were shorted on profits from the  detective series.

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A judgment of $70.6 million was entered against the company in March, finding the studio isn't allowed a distribution fee from gross profits when it acts as distributor, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
CMCSACOMCAST CORP.42.77-1.12-2.55%

Universal argued the jury wasn't properly instructed on the meaning of "photoplays." The court didn't rule Columbo episodes qualified as photoplays until after the jury entered its verdict because the trial was split into multiple phases.

Universal asked for a new trial.

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The Hollywood Reporter was given a statement by the law firm retained by NBCUniversal:

“Needless to say, we are pleased the Court agreed with our position on the pivotal contract issue and look forward to concluding what little remains of the case."