In 'Godzilla' Lawsuit, 3 Ex-Producers Claim Contract Fraud

By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 04, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Three ex-producers of the newest "Godzilla" movie have sued Legendary Pictures for cutting them out of a deal to secure the movie rights.

Dan Lin, Roy Lee, and Doug Davison allege that they were responsible for bringing "Godzilla" to Legendary, and that the production company orally agreed to pay them cash and a percentage of the film's "first-dollar gross receipts," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Are these three the victims of fraud, or just bitter for missing a monster of an opportunity?

Obtain Rights, Get a Cut

In their complaint against Legendary, Lin, Lee, and Davison allege that they approached Legendary with their plans for a "Godzilla" reboot in 2009. The studio encouraged them to obtain the rights from Toho Co. (a Japanese company) to develop and produce a new "Godzilla" film -- in exchange for being "well treated throughout."

The trio claims this oral agreement included a promise of:

  • A $25,000 development fee,
  • Fixed compensation of $1.3 million, and
  • Three percent of the first-dollar gross receipts.

According to THR, "Godzilla" has already raked in about $375 million worldwide after only three weeks, making this alleged deal a very lucrative one for the three producers. The trio claims they were forced out of the project in late 2012 to early 2013.

Oral Contract

However, the three ex-producers contend that during the whole time they worked on Legendary's "Godzilla" film, they never signed any written agreement which contained those terms. Oral contracts may be fine for things like promising to pay your neighbor for mowing your lawn, but when millions of dollars are at stake, it seems somewhat silly.

Typically the statute of frauds would prevent the producer trio from trying to enforce their oral contract on Legendary, but there is an exception. When a promisee believes a contract exists and in good faith tries to perform on that contract to his or her own detriment, a court may enforce it even though a legal contract never existed.

Punitive Damages Sought

Because they feel Legendary duped them into essentially obtaining the "Godzilla" rights for nothing, Lee, Lin, and Davison are suing Legendary for fraud -- including punitive damages.

For its part, Legendary claims that fraud could not have occurred if Legendary only hatched a plan to remove the three producers after the rights were obtained.

Not quite as exciting as Godzilla vs. Gamera, right?

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