SiriusXM and Stitcher will not have to face a lawsuit from former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek accusing them of reneging on a $700,000 podcast deal.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Broadbelt, in a tentative order issued on Friday, dismissed the suit, finding that the audio giant “did not enter into a contract” with the actor since they didn’t finalize the agreement.
Van Der Beek said he reached a deal over email with executives from SiriusXM to host 40 episodes in exchange for a $700,000 minimum guarantee and a 50 percent cut of the net ad revenue. He sued in 2022 after the company walked away from the agreement.
Ruling in favor of SiriusXM on summary judgment, the court concluded that the two sides aren’t bound by an April 2022 document outlining the terms of the deal. It pointed to the first page of the proposal, which states that it’s for “discussion purposes only, is not a binding commitment in any respect, and is not to be interpreted in any respect as a binding commitment to negotiate.”
There was extensive evidence presented to the court referencing the need to sign a definitive, longform agreement contemplated in the initial proposal. Included among them was an email from Stitcher’s Associate Director of Business Development Leah Reis-Dennis, who stated in an April 2022 email “we are ready to call terms officially closed and (finally!) get the longform started.”
Van Der Beek argued that the proposal constitutes a valid, binding contract because Reis-Dennis made various comments indicating that the terms were “closed.”
“However, in those emails, Reis-Dennis also stated that Defendants would be working to begin drafting the longform agreement or request that the longform be drafted,” stated the order, which noted that the actor’s transactional lawyer also discussed having to sign the document to lock down the deal.
Broadbelt also rejected arguments that SiriusXM should be bound by the April 2022 document because the company already started to fulfill some of its terms by beginning the process of hiring a senior producer and requesting Van Der Beek’s payroll information.
In a declaration to the court, Reis-Dennis testified that she requested “loanout info” in order to set up payments to the actor but clarified that she would pay him only “if that agreement was signed.”
The order explained, “Plaintiff has not presented any evidence or argument showing that Reis-Dennis’s request for information to set up payments in the future (1) is inconsistent with the earlier statements that the parties would be bound only upon the execution of a longform agreement, or (2) constitutes an outward manifestation that Defendants intended to be bound by the terms of the April 28 Proposal without such a longform agreement.”
Van Der Beek brought claims relating to breach of contract and sought damages exceeding the $700,000 agreement.
SiriusXM, which was represented by Jordan Susman of Nolan Heimann, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.
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