If lawsuits, like fine wine, get better with age, this batch should be a doozy.
About 150 veteran TV writers continue their long slog toward the courtroom, with depositions in a 7-year-old age-discrimination case expected to finally commence this spring. Details of the long-on-the-vine litigation have taken so long to untangle that 10 or more plaintiffs have died since it was filed.
There was a big development in the case recently, when 70,000 mailings went out to former and current WGA members and their beneficiaries. The mailings -- targeting possibly no more than 40,000 individuals, using multiple addresses for many -- relates to a recent request for information on guild members' residual payments and health benefit files.
Case research and documentation have continued since the case was first filed in October 2000 as a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Yet only recently has an actual discovery process commenced, with plaintiff attorneys diverted for years by a thicket of defendants' motions.
First, defendants succeeded in getting the federal suit dismissed, and when 23 related suits were filed in the local Superior Court seeking class-action status, the actions were contested aggressively by defendants' attorneys. Appeals rose to the state Supreme Court, which refused to hear the defendants' appeal, and the suits were reinstated in Superior Court in January 2005.
The suits seek unspecified monetary damages on behalf of the TV writers, who claim that they can't get work in Hollywood because of their ages. It names as defendants the major studios, TV networks and talent agencies.
The proposed class action would cover 150 plaintiff writers, including such veterans of classic television as Burt Prelutsky
("Newhart", "The Mary Tyler Moore
Show") and Tracy Keenan Wynn
("The Net", "The Quest"). About 60 "lead plaintiffs" are expected to figure most prominently in the imminent deposition process and potentially any trial.