Bid for new trial rejected in ‘Millionaire’ case

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - A federal judge refused Tuesday to order a new trial in a lawsuit that resulted in a $319 million judgment against Walt Disney Co. over profits from the TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips wrote in a 54-page ruling that evidence supported the jury verdict in favor of London-based Celador International.

The company sued in 2004, accusing Disney of using creative accounting to hide profits.

Celador won a $269.2 million jury verdict in July, and the companies later agreed that a $50 million interest payment to the show’s creators was warranted.

Disney attorneys have argued the judge improperly excluded certain evidence and testimony. Disney has called the verdict “fundamentally wrong” and is likely to appeal.

Lawyer Martin D. Katz, who represents the entertainment giant, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment about the latest ruling.

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” first aired in the U.S. from August 1999 to May 2002. It was then hosted by Regis Philbin and was a smash hit for ABC.

The trial earlier this year included testimony by top brass at Disney, and evidence included an e-mail from former chairman and CEO Michael Eisner that the show was worth “$1B, wild guess, maybe more.”

Disney argued that the jury shouldn’t have been shown that e-mail, but Phillips’ ruling states the jury had other evidence to support its verdict.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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