Fraud claim thrown out in 'Happy Days' lawsuit

"Happy Days" stars Anson Williams, Don Most, Marion Ross and Erin Moran are suing CBS for unpaid royalties.

Story highlights

  • CBS "thrilled" with ruling; actors will proceed with rest of lawsuit
  • "Happy Days" actors suing CBS over merchandising revenues
  • Four members of cast from hit show say they haven't been paid their share
  • They cannot receive punitive damages if they prevail
A California judge Wednesday threw out a claim by cast members of the hit television show "Happy Days" that CBS committed fraud by not paying them for merchandising sales.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White ruled in favor of CBS on the fraud claim, meaning the case will proceed only with a breach of contract suit. The cast had sued CBS for $10 million, alleging fraud.
The decision means the actors cannot receive punitive damages at the trial, which is scheduled for June 26, 2012.
The actors claim they never received revenue statements related to merchandising, and that CBS intentionally never intended to pay them anyway.
"The exact details of this alleged promise to provide periodic revenue statements when merchandising revenue had been generated have not been pled with the requisite level of specificity required, such as, who said exactly what to whom and they those representations were known to be false when made," according to the court ruling.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the CBS Consumer Products Division said, "We are thrilled that the court has thrown out all claims for punitive damages and significantly narrowed this to a case of contract interpretation."
Jon Pfeiffer, attorney for the actors, told CNN they were disappointed. "But we intend to press forward with the lawsuit. If we can't punish the defendants, we certainly intend to expose their practices," he said
Four members of the cast -- Marion Ross, Don Most, Anson Williams and Erin Moran -- along with the widow of Tom Bosley, in April sued CBS, which owns the show, claiming they have not been been paid what they're owed for the worldwide sale of "Happy Days" merchandise. The series was on the air from 1974 to 1984. Bosley died last October.
Under their contracts, the actors were supposed to receive 5% of net proceeds, or 2 1/2% if their images were used in a group, the lawsuit states.
In court papers, CBS claimed the actors "are attempting to generate a lucrative litigation windfall by riddling their complaint with unsupported and overreaching causes of action" for fraud and breach of good faith. The company said this was "all done in a transparent attempt to introduce the specter of punitive damages" in the case.
CBS said the case was "a garden-variety breach of contract action, nothing more."
The actors accused CBS of "despicable conduct," saying "although defendants routinely rebrand their corporate images, they should not be permitted to rebrand the truth."
In interviews with CNN earlier this year, the actors claimed they were cut out of the merchandising bonanza from the show. Those products include comic books, T-shirts, scrapbooks, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, dolls, toy cars, magnets, greeting cards and DVDs where their images appear on the box covers.
In documents provided to the actors, CBS said it only owes them between $8,500 and $9,000 each for the last four years. Most of that money is from slot machine revenues. The actors claim they are owed millions of dollars.