By Eriq Gardner
Here's a shot across the bow of anyone who licenses the rights to a film and may wish to sue when things don't go as planned:
A Los Angeles Superior Court has ordered best-selling novelist Clive Cussler to pay $14 million in legal fees to Crusader Entertainment after litigating an unsuccessful lawsuit.
The case earned extraordinary attention a few years ago thanks to the mammoth box office flop of "Sahara," a 2005 film version of Cussler's novel that starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz and is estimated to have lost about $80 million
at the box office after expenses.
Cussler was quite vocal about his displeasure about not having script approval and launched a claim against Crusader alleging that the film company breached the licensing agreement. In return, Crusader countersued, claiming that Cussler had hurt the film's box office prospects.
Two years ago, a jury returned a verdict that ordered Cussler to pay $5 million. Crusader wasn't satisfied with the judgment, claiming that lawyers had billed the company more than 35,000 hours. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shook seems to agree, ordering damages today more than $13.9 million.
According to some news outlets, the damage for Cussler could be even more significant, with reported legal fees
to his own lawyer, Bert Fields, tagged at $8.5 million.
Total pain for Cussler? More than $27 million and counting. After all, Fields plans to appeal the decision for his client, which will probably cost more money. Few would have ever guessed that a controversy over script approval could ever get to be so expensive.