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California court to unwind complex studio contract-breach claim

Neal Moritz has a clear and unclouded take on the conduct of Universal Studios’ executives and attorneys: in his estimation, their behavior concerning interactions with him as a first-line movie producer has been egregious enough to warrant his filing of a lawsuit alleging breach of an existing contract.

For their part, affected studio principals counter with an alternative story that spotlights instead business negotiations that simply never gained sufficient traction to result in a firm understanding and legal agreement. In short, they view the Moritz complaint filed last week in a California court as meritless.

One thing that the dispute is definitely not is this: simple.

Indeed, careful scrutiny is a must to appreciate the back-and-forth details that emerge from the reported history of dealing between Moritz and Universal going back to early last year. The contract clash involves the producer’s role in a developing spinoff vehicle being created from the popular franchise The Fast and The Furious.

Moritz bases his breach claim on an alleged Universal failure to follow through on a meeting of the minds reached via an oral agreement between the parties. Universal seems likely to defend in court with an argument that confirmed discussions were simply preparatory to the potential drafting of a binding written contract. That agreement was never executed.

That means nothing to Moritz, who contends that he justifiably relied upon the oral pact to perform a significant amount of advance work on the spinoff for well more than a year. He wants the court to confirm and enforce the oral agreement and order Universal to pay an unspecified amount of damages.

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