Writer claims his own managers stole 'Lottery Ticket'

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Writer claims his own managers stole 'Lottery Ticket'

Wed Aug 11, 2010 @ 12:28PM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Lottery-Ticket EXCLUSIVE: It's every screenwriter's nightmare: your manager advises you to collaborate with another client, who then takes your idea and develops it into a big movie without including or even telling you.

Those are the allegations in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today against Evolution Entertainment and managers Brad Kaplan, Oren Koules and Mark Burg, as well as Erik White, the director with a co-"story by" credit on "Lottery Ticket," an Alcon film that Warner Bros will release on August 20.

Screenwriter Tom Huang claims that in 2004, Evolution took him on as a client and helped him develop a treatment for a film called "Gotta Make It Til Morning." Kaplan, a literary manager, then allegedly suggested Huang work with White, another Evolution client, to further develop the idea. After a few meetings, the project didn't go anywhere, and Huang says he thought the movie was dead. That is, until he saw a TV commercial recently for "Lottery Ticket," the Bow Wow, Ice Cube comedy "which he immediately recognized as a derivative work of 'Gotta Make It Til Morning,'" according to the complaint.

Huang has sued for breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, civil conspiracy, breach of oral contract, promissory estoppel, breach of implied-in-fact-contract and unjust enrichment. Neither Warners nor Alcon is a defendant.

"Kaplan kept the project secret from Huang for six years and attempted to cover up the theft by fraudulently crediting and compensating White for creating the story for 'Lottery Ticket,'" the complaint alleges.

Calls to Evolution, Kaplan, Koules, Burg and White's agent at WME were not immediately returned. UPDATE: WME says White declines to comment; the Evolution guys still haven't called us back. 

Huang claims to have an email trail between Kaplan, White and himself that proves he created the story, as well as a WGA registration for the treatment used to make the movie.

"Documents do not lie," Huang's lawyer Bryan Freedman tells us. "What makes this case so egregious is that Evolution actually represented Mr. Huang in connection with this very project and then used that position to secretly steal it away. They will be punished."

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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 Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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