Antonio Vernon v. CBS Television Studios et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order written by the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly on 10/16/2017: For the reasons stated, though the Court does not adopt the previously assigned judge's finding of want of prosecution, the Court denies Vernon's moti on for reconsideration and reinstatement [dkt. nos. 48 & 52], because he has not submitted a viable third amended complaint, and there is no basis to believe he could do so if given another opportunity. The Court therefore declines to vacate the judgment. Mailed notice. (pjg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
CBS TELEVISION STUDIOS, et al.,
Case No. 17 C 568
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge:
Antonio Vernon filed a pro se lawsuit in the Central District of California. The
judge in that district granted Vernon's request to transfer the case to this district, which
is where Vernon resides. The judge to whom the case was previously assigned advised
Vernon that his second amended complaint was deficient and ruled that if Vernon did
not file a proposed third amended complaint that complied with Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8, he would dismiss the case for want of prosecution. That same judge
dismissed the case for want of prosecution shortly before retiring from the bench.
Vernon then filed a timely motion seeking reconsideration of the order and
reinstatement of the case, stating that he had been advised that he understood, based
on communications with personnel working for the judge, that everything was on hold
due to the judge's absence. Vernon has submitted a proposed third amended
complaint. The Court has reviewed it to determine whether to reinstate the case.
Vernon has sued CBS Corp., CBS Television Studios, ABC Studios, Walt Disney
Co., a representative of Lighthouse Management & Media, Dare to Pass, Yahoo! Inc.,
three representatives of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, a representative of
United Talent Agency, Cinema Gypsy, the actor Laurence Fishburne, and several other
defendants. All of the defendants are located in southern California except for one that
is located in Nevada.
The gist of Vernon's third amended complaint is that he developed the concept
and a synopsis for a dramatic television series called Cyber Police, involving "a
cybercrime fighting specialist unit of a crime fighting agency," 3rd Am. Compl. ¶ 51, and
later wrote and submitted to the Copyright Office scripts for several episodes. He also
submitted some or all of these materials to Cinema Gypsy, identified as Fishburne's
production company. He says that the defendants produced television series, including
CSI: Cyber, Intelligence, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Cybergeddon, and Rewind,
that allegedly adopted the same or similar concepts and used similar character and plot
elements as Cyber Police.
Vernon has sued the defendants for breach of alleged implied-in-fact and
implied-in-law contracts, copyright infringement, false designation of origin, "tortious
interference for source misrepresentation," and "third party interference with a contract."
He seeks to recover "a financial accounting-based remedy in the $500 million to $ multibillion order of magnitude." 3rd Am. Compl. ¶ 245.
Vernon's third amended complaint suffers from many of the same deficiencies as
the earlier version that the previously assigned judge dismissed. In particular, it does
not include a "short and plain statement" of his claim, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and it does
not adequately explain what each defendant did that was wrong. But there are far more
significant problems. First of all, Vernon's allegations regarding the submission of his
materials to certain defendants—which is basically all he alleges—do not come close to
giving rise to a contract implied in fact or law. A contract implied in fact is one in which
a contractual duty is imposed "by a promissory expression which may be inferred from
the facts and circumstances and the expression on the part of the promisor which show
an intention to be bound." Marcatante v. City of Chicago, 657 F.3d 433, 440 (7th Cir.
2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Vernon alleges nothing suggesting any
intention on the part of any of the defendants to be bound to him in any way. A contract
implied in law is one where there is no actual agreement, but a duty is imposed to
prevent unjust enrichment. See, e.g., Midcoast Aviation, Inc. v. Gen. Elec. Credit Corp.,
907 F.3d 732, 743 (7th Cir. 1990). Vernon's allegations do not come close to stating a
viable claim along these lines; the elements that he says defendants took from Cyber
Police (allegations whose truth the Court assumes, but does not find, for present
purposes) are far too general to give rise to a claim the defendants were unjustly
enriched at his expense. Second, Vernon's copyright-based claims are deficient. For
most of the defendants he has not even alleged access to his copyrighted materials,
and for all of them, the general similarities he notes between Cyber Police and the
defendants' shows are too general to permit an inference of substantial similarity. See
generally Tillman v. New Line Cinema, 295 F. App'x 840, 842-43 (7th Cir. 2008). Third,
for the same reasons, Vernon's "source misrepresentation" claims are deficient. And
finally, because he has no viable contract–based claims, Vernon's claims for tortious
interference with contract fail.
For the reasons stated above, though the Court does not adopt the previously-
assigned judge's finding of want of prosecution, the Court denies Vernon's motion for
reconsideration and reinstatement [dkt. nos. 48 & 52], because he has not submitted a
viable third amended complaint, and there is no basis to believe he could do so if given
another opportunity. The Court therefore declines to vacate the judgment.
Date: October 16, 2017
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY
United States District Judge
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