Trademark Props. Inc. v. A & E Television Networks
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
422 Fed.Appx. 199 (2011)
Richard Davis (plaintiff) was a real estate broker who bought underpriced properties, then renovated and sold them. Davis believed that this process, called flipping, could be the subject of a reality television show. Davis created a pilot episode for his show that he called “Flip This House,” and used the pilot to pitch his idea to several television networks. Charles Norlander, a director of programming at A & E Television Networks (A & E) (defendant), called Davis to discuss the pilot. During their conversation, Davis proposed that he personally handle the purchase and resale of the properties used for the show, but to split the show’s revenues with A & E. Norlander responded, “Okay, okay, I get it.” Davis believed that this conversation constituted an oral agreement. Norlander and A & E worked together to make thirteen episodes of “Flip This House,” and the show was successful. Davis expected that Norlander would reduce their oral agreement to a written contract, but Norlander did not. Davis and Norlander could not resolve the amount that Davis would be compensated. In the end, A & E did not pay Davis anything, and produced three more seasons of “Flip this House” without Davis. Davis sued A & E for $7.5 million, or half of A & E’s revenues from the four seasons of “Flip this House.” During the trial, Norlander denied having any contract with Davis. A jury found in favor of Davis and awarded him damages of $4 million. A & E moved for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. The district court denied A & E’s motions. On appeal, A & E argued that the parties only intended to be bound by a written agreement, and that under New York law, complex contracts must be written rather than oral.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Baldock, J.)
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