Writer Suing Over Fox Show 'Touch'Claims New Evidence
By: Amanda Bransford, Law360, New York (June 13, 2012, 2:40 PM ET)
An author who claims Fox Entertainment Group Inc. ripped off his screenplay and turned it into actor Kiefer Sutherland's new show "Touch" told a New York federal judge Wednesday that episodes that have aired since he filed the suit used even more ideas stolen from him.
An attorney for writer Everette Hallford told U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III at an initial conference Wednesday that he planned to amend the complaint, originally filed in March, to include evidence of more striking similarities between his client's screenplay and the series, whose season finale aired May 31."It's remarkable how much more they're even taking," Joseph D. Nohavicka of Pardalis & Nohavicka LLP told the judge.Hallford says he wrote a screenplay called "Prodigy," based on his 2008 novel "Visionary," which featured an autistic boy with special powers that give him knowledge of the "interconnectedness of all things," a character inspired by his own autistic son. Hallford's complaint alleges Fox's "Touch," written by Richard Kring, bears significant resemblances to his work.The Fox show steals ideas for characters, plot developments and themes from "Prodigy," which Hallford registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the suit says. Sutherland, the star and executive producer of the show, is named as a defendant in the suit, along with Kring and Fox.Jonathan Zavin, a Loeb & Loeb LLP attorney for Fox, said at Wednesday's conference that there is no substantial similarity between "Prodigy" and "Touch."
"They share, at a very general level, a similar idea. And that is the very common idea of a gifted child," he said.
Zavin also said that there is absolutely no evidence that Kring had access to Hallford's screenplay before writing "Touch."
Hallford has advanced the theory, however, that Kring may have accessed the screenplay through a mutual acquaintance. From May to July 2009, Hallford spent much of his time at Schneider Children's Hospital, where his baby granddaughter, who later died at the age of eight months, was being treated for cancer. During that time, he grew friendly with the hospital's bioethics representative, Robert Cassidy Jr., who happened to be old friends with Kring, the complaint said.
Hallford gave Cassidy a signed copy of "Visionary" and a website link to the full text of the "Prodigy" screenplay in the hopes that Cassidy might pass them along to Kring, who had previously created NBC's hit show "Heroes," the suit alleges.
Nohavicka said at Wednesday's conference, however, that Cassidy may not have been the individual who passed the information along and said that the amended complaint would contain the right name.
Zavin asked the judge to delay the beginning of discovery until the defendants have had a chance to respond to the amended complaint, saying he hoped to have the case dismissed and avoid the expense of discovery.
The judge ruled, however, that documentary discovery could go forward, though depositions would be put on hold.
"The complaint has some pretty detailed allegations. You can persuade me, but you're not going to persuade me on discovery," Judge Pauley told Zavin.
"Touch" premiered on Fox in January and has been renewed for a second season.
Hallford is represented by Joseph D. Nohavicka and Taso Pardalis of Pardalis & Nohavicka LLP.
Fox is represented by Jonathan Zavin of Loeb & Loeb LLP.
The case is Everette Hallford v. Fox Entertainment Group Inc. et al., case number 1:12-cv-01806, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.