'Happy Days' actors settle lawsuit with CBS
A lawsuit filed by 'Happy Days' actors saying CBS cut them out of merchandising profits has finally been settled.
Four cast members of the hit 1970s show claimed that CBS, which owns the show, owed them millions earned from merchandising and damages. The lawsuit was set to go to trial on July 17, but was settled 11 days early.
Actors Marion Ross, Anson Williams, Don Most and Erin Moran filed the suit and Tom Bosley's estate was also represented in the lawsuit. Bosley, who played Howard Cunningham, died in October 2010 at age 83.
"The case has been settled," CBS said in a statement to Deadline. "All contractual obligations will be honored, as we had promised from the beginning. We appreciate the Court's earlier dismissal of the far-reaching claims, which paved the way for an ordinary settlement based on contractual issues."
Though the settlement details are confidential, sources told the industry site that the actors will receive between $60,000 and $65,000 each.
The actors sued CBS for breach-of-contract and claimed the network cut them out of millions of dollars made from selling products that bear images of their characters, including dolls, DVD covers and slot machines.
"Somebody came up to me and said, 'You must be cleaning up on those casinos." And I said, 'Well, what are you talking about?' And he said, 'If you get five Marions, you get the jackpot,'" Ross, the 88-year-old actress who played Marion Cunningham, told CNN last year.
CBS offered a 15-page response to the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 19, 2011, stating that the case is a "garden-variety breach of contract action, nothing more."
"Rather than simply seek what they are purportedly owed under their contracts," CBS continued in their statement, "plaintiffs 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."
Under the actors' contracts, they were slated to earn 5 percent from the net proceeds of merchandising if their sole image were used and 2.5 percent if they were pictured with other cast members. CBS retained the right to deduct 50 percent off the top as a "handling fee."
In April 2011, CBS acknowledged that the actors were owed approximately $9,000 each for four years of merchandising and stated that they were working with them to resolve the issue. In the actor's suit, they claim that CBS uses a "don't ask, don't pay" policy and asked for $10 million in damages.
The lawsuit said that the show "epitomizes what is best in America with the Cunningham family exemplifying the best of what a family can be. As will be proven at trial, defendants' actions epitomize what is worst in corporate America, exemplifying the worst business practices."
Neither Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning director who played Richie Cunningham, nor Henry Winkler, who played The Fonz, are part of the lawsuit. Winkler told CNN earlier in the year that he was paid for merchandising, including his image and voice on the slot machines but didn't specify how much.