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Legal Jousting Keeps Gurney Productions Founders From Returning to Company

Variety logo Variety 3/28/2017 Cynthia Littleton
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The founders of Gurney Productions are still not able to return to the company following the latest decision from the judge overseeing the bitter legal battle between Scott and Deirdre Gurney and ITV America.

The judge on Tuesday declined a request by the Gurneys’ legal team that could have paved the way for the couple’s return to the production banner behind “Duck Dynasty” and other unscripted shows. The pair were removed in December after ITV filed a lawsuit accusing the couple of fraud and deceit in the management of the company, which ITV America bought in 2012.

Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason granted the Gurneys’ request for a preliminary injunction that restored the Gurneys as the controlling managers of the company. ITV filed a notice of appeal on the decision, which put a stay on the injunction. However, the Gurneys’ legal team questioned whether ITV’s notice of appeal was sufficient to stay the injunction. The Gurneys sought to set a date for an emergency contempt hearing against ITV, which has continued to bar the Gurneys from returning to the West Los Angeles-based company. But the judge on Tuesday declined that request.

“We have held from the very beginning that we are extremely confident of success in the merits of our case,” ITV said in a statement. “The amount of compelling evidence against the Gurneys continues to mount, beyond what was included in our initial filing, and we fully expect to win once the allegations of deceit, fraud and self-dealing by the Gurneys are exposed at a full trial. We are happy to be moving toward the discovery phase of the case.”

The Gurneys maintain the allegations in ITV’s lawsuit were fabricated to drive down the price that ITV would pay to buy out the couple’s remaining interest in the company, as stipulated in the initial sale agreement. The couple filed a $100 million breach of contract lawsuit against ITV in January.

“Nothing has changed from last week’s detailed 10-page opinion from the court which in granting a preliminary injunction against ITV found as to each and every claim alleged by ITV that the Gurneys are likely to prevail, including the court’s findings that they were terminated without good cause and that they remain the controlling managers of Gurney Productions,” said Phil Kelly, an attorney for the Gurneys.

Tuesday’s legal sparring means the court of appeals will decide on the question of whether the type of injunction the judge issued was stayed by ITV’s notice of appeal, or if ITV is in contempt of the judge’s order. Beyond that, the sides are expected to return to court on May 3 for a status conference on both lawsuits.

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