More 'Sahara' litigation! Cussler sues Anschutz all over again

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More 'Sahara' litigation! Cussler sues Anschutz all over again

Thu Jun 24, 2010 @ 05:51PM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Cussler,clive EXCLUSIVE: You thought the epic legal battle over "Sahara" was done, right?

Despite a March appellate court ruling in the long-running litigation between author Clive Cussler (right) and Philip Anschutz's Crusader Entertainment, Cussler today reignited the dispute. He filed a new lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that the appeals court opened a window for him to recover $8.5 million owed on a contract with Crusader. Cussler is asking a judge to declare that his claim is valid and he is entitled to the money.  

Anschutz,philip This should all sound familiar. Cussler has been fueding with Crusader (now Bristol Bay Prods) over the boxoffice bomb "Sahara" since before it was released in 2005. After a nasty, circus-like trial, a jury awarded the Anschutz (left) company $5 million but Cussler's lead lawyer, Bert Fields, argued that the decision was a win for Cussler because it left it open for an appeals court to find that Cussler was entitled to $8.5 million for, among other things, adaptation rights to a second novel.

In March, an appellate court denied Cussler's appeal but took away the $5 million award to Crusader, remanding the case back to the trial court. It also, according to Cussler, held that Crusader had abandoned a key claim that Cussler wasn't entitled to recover certain payments, meaning that Crusader couldn't assert that claim in a subsequent action. "This is such a subsequent action," the new complaint reads, arguing that Cussler's "contract right to payment remains intact."

"Here we go again," Fields tells us. "I asked the California Supreme Court to not make us file again but the Supreme Court wouldn't take the case so we're refiling the case. (Crusader) said our right to the money was extinguished but the jury disagreed and the claim was dismissed with prejudice. We're now suing to recover that money."

"They're trying to pretend this wasn't already litigated," Crusader attorney Marvin Putnam tells us. "Cussler has never been able to accept the fact that he lost this case. He didn't accept the jury verdict, then for a year they tried to get the trial court judge to say the jury determined (Cussler was) entitled to $8.5 million and the court said absolutely not. They then sought an appeal and it didn't work. Then they appealed to the California Supreme Court and they didn't take the case. So, despite having had multiple courts say no, they are trying all over again."

The complaint for declaratory relief was filed by Fields, Elizabeth Moriarty and Caroline Burgos at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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