Novelist Clive Cussler hit with hefty legal bill

Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:27pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Here's a shot across the bow of anyone who licenses the rights to a film and considers suing when things don't go as planned:

A Los Angeles Superior Court has ordered best-selling novelist Clive Cussler to pay $14 million in legal fees to Crusader Entertainment after litigating an unsuccessful lawsuit.

The case earned extraordinary attention a few years ago thanks to the mammoth box office flop of "Sahara," a 2005 film version of Cussler's novel that starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz and is estimated to have lost about $80 million.

Cussler was quite vocal about his displeasure about not having script approval and launched a claim against Crusader alleging that the film company breached the licensing agreement. In return, Crusader countersued, claiming that Cussler had hurt the film's box office prospects.

Two years ago, a jury returned a verdict that ordered Cussler to pay $5 million. Crusader wasn't satisfied with the judgment, claiming that lawyers had billed the company more than 35,000 hours. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shook seems to agree, this week adding $13.9 million to Cussler's tab.

According to some news outlets, the damage for Cussler could be even more significant, with reported legal fees to his own lawyer, Bert Fields, tagged at $8.5 million.

Total pain for Cussler? More than $27 million and counting. After all, Fields plans to appeal the decision for his client, which will probably cost more money. Few would have ever guessed that a controversy over script approval could ever get to be so expensive.

(Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters)

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