Court Rules Tolkien Heirs Cannot Seek Punitive Damages Against New Line
Trying to follow the lengthy legal entanglements between parties over beloved properties is never fun or easy. Just as you forget about a lingering case, it re-enters the headlines. Such is the case with the court ruling this week that J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate can not seek punitive damages from New Line Cinema over profits earned by the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
According to the AP story, “New Line’s attorneys successfully argued that Tolkien’s heirs had to demonstrate a ‘public wrong’ under New York law – which governs the contracts – to claim punitive damages if they win at trial. Jones ruled that the heirs’ grievance ‘is clearly seeking to vindicate private wrongs’.”
The laws suit continues to move toward its October 2009 trial date as the estate is suing for $150 million in compensatory damages in a breach of contract suit. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones ruled this week that the plaintiffs have established a legal basis for the fraud claim against the studio which is a part of Time Warner.
Among the claims are that millions in profits were funneled into an advertising expense line and offices built in New Zealand for production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy have subsequently been used for other studio projects.
The estate claims they have yet to see money despite the trilogy earning some $6 billion. As a result, they are seeking the court to order the currently planned two film adaptation of The Hobbit to be halted.