Lawsuit: Jon Gosselin threatened TLC with 'Jon & Kate' harmful claim
By Reality TV World staff, 10/16/2009
TLC is claiming Jon Gosselin's recent "epiphany" that Jon & Kate Plus 8 is harmful to his eight children was the result of a failed attempt to threaten the network into releasing him from his exclusive contract.
According to the breach of contract lawsuit the network filed against him on Friday, Gosselin's September 29 demand that the network "cease and desist" filming the children because Jon & Kate Plus 8 is "detrimental" to their health was the direct result of the network refusing to release him from a contractually-negotiated exclusivity provision that was preventing him from earning "substantial sums" from other unspecified "appearances."
"Gosselin's counsel stated that if this release was not forthcoming within one hour's time, [he] would reverse his often repeated public comments to the contrary and publicly object to further filming of the program on the grounds that it is purportedly detrimental to his children," TLC's lawyers allege in the lawsuit filing, which was obtained by TMZ.
"When [TLC] declined to provide the release, [Gosselin] followed through with his threat and thereafter notified TLC that he would attempt to bar TLC further access to the family property and further filming of his children."
According to the lawsuit, that notification -- which the public didn't actually learn about until Gosselin announced it two days later on October 1 -- was "the first time in nearly five years" that Gosselin told TLC that filming Jon & Kate Plus 8 "was detrimental and should be stopped."
The lawsuit's allegations appear to be consistent with an October 1 TMZ report which claimed Gosselin had spent several months attempting to quit Jon & Kate Plus 8 in order to appear on another shows (including Divorced Dad's Club, which he previously acknowledged interest in, presumably) but TLC -- which was reportedly was willing to continue paying him for the reality series without actually having him have to appear on it -- was unwilling to release him from his exclusive contract.
According to the lawsuit, Gosselin's alleged shakedown was merely the latest example of the "erratic public behavior, unprofessional conduct and serial disregard for his contractual obligations" that had led TLC to "exercise its editorial discretion" and announce plans to re-launch Jon & Kate Plus 8 as a Kate Gosselin-focused series that would be retitled Kate Plus 8.
The lawsuit claims that earlier that month, Jon and his representative had failed to respond to TLC's September 18 attempt to schedule a September 24 filming session with him, resulting in the network not being able to film that day. TLC also claims to have had similar problems when it tried to contact him to discuss its plans to retitle the show Kate Plus 8.
"TLC made [the Kate Plus 8] announcement after an unsuccessful attempt to discuss the matter with [Gosselin]," states the lawsuit, which claims Jon's attorney subsequently contacted TLC with the "detrimental" threat "later [on the] same day" of the network's Kate Plus 8announcement.
"TLC explained that [Jon] would continue to appear on the program, continue to receive compensation, and would remain under contract, but that the program's primary focus going forward would be [Kate's] role as a single mother."
In addition to alleging Jon's "detrimental" claim was just part of an attempt to get the network to release him from the exclusivity clause in his contract, the lawsuit also challenges Jon's recent claims that his previous decisions were impacted by a lack of legal representation.
"I don't think it's healthy for them. And, you know, now I have a sense of empowerment. Before, I didn't have any representation," Jon said during a joint appearance with Mark Jay Heller, his new recently-hired attorney, on Larry King Live's October 1 broadcast.
According to Jon and his lawyer, Jon's lack of representation had dated all the way back to their initial agreement with TLC.
"At the time that these two struggling people were desperate for money, TLC came with a cadre of lawyers, the most sophisticated contract you've ever seen and said 'sign.' They had no manager. He had no lawyer. He had no idea of what he was signing," Heller said during the Larry King Live appearance in which he also repeatedly called TLC "a monster."
However according to TLC's lawsuit, the Gosselins have been retaining legal counsel ever since the summer of 2007 when the parties negotiated new terms for the 12-episode second season of Jon & Kate Plus 8, which had debuted its eight-episode first season on TLC's Discovery Health Channel sister network several months earlier in April 2007. (Jon & Kate Plus 8 only moved to TLC beginning with the January 2008 premiere of its third season.)
After the 30-episode third season debuted, the parties allegedly began negotiating new terms for a fourth season, during which the lawsuit also claims "the Gosselins were represented by both their manager and their lawyer."
According to the filing, those negotiations resulted in a "new" April 29, 2008 contract that "substantially increased the per-episode and other compensation" the Gosselin family received during Jon & Kate Plus 8's 40-episode fourth season and also gave TLC an option on a fifth season, which it subsequently exercised in February 2009 (three months before the network publicly announced the pickup amid numerous reports that the couple's marriage was on the rocks).
The new contract, which Jon and Kate executed individually and on behalf of their children, also allegedly gave TLC the option to renew Jon & Kate Plus 8 for sixth and seventh seasons that would continue to increase the family's compensation.
However the April 2008 contract -- which the lawsuit claims has been "amended in writings executed by all parties" on "four occasions since then" but is still the contract the show is currently being produced under -- also included several "provisions designed and intended to give [TLC] the ability to manage the publicity, marketing and distribution of the program."
Those provisions -- which TLC claims Jon has violated -- allegedly include an agreement that the Gosselin family's services and home would be made available for filming the show and be provided "exclusively" to TLC and a clause that required Jon not engage in "inappropriate conduct," including "dishonesty or public intoxication or other conduct that offended 'social conventions or public morals of decency'" or other behavior "that brought the family or TLC 'into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.'"
In addition, the contract also allegedly includes provisions that prevent Jon from disclosing confidential information and issuing pressing releases or public statements "about the program, TLC, or other parties involved with the program (including his own family members)" without TLC's consent. It also allegedly prevents him from promoting or endorsing any products without TLC's consent.
The lawsuit also notes that after filing for divorce, Jon and Kate reached an interim joint custody agreement in which they "each agreed that the continuation of Jon & Kate Plus 8 was in the best interest of their children" and "agreed that they would take turns staying in the family residence and whichever parent was home at a particular time would be authorized to make decisions related to filming or production."
It also claims the contract gave TLC "exclusive editorial discretion over the program, including determining which family members would appear, how the program would be marketed, and what the program would be called" and an option to terminate Jon "individually" if he failed to conduct himself in "an appropriate manner."
In addition to supporting TLC's previous statements that it still considers Jon to be under exclusive contract to the network, the claims are also consistent with TLC's previous insistence there is no merit to Heller's recent allegations that the network's decision to re-title the show Kate Plus 8 have also rendered the contract "null and void."
"The contract, such as it may exist, was a specific designation of a program involving the whole Gosselin family. The minute they terminated that production and that title, they had to get a new contract which they haven't done," Heller said during the Larry King Live appearance.
While the lawsuit claims TLC consented to Jon's media requests "where appropriate under the circumstances," it alleges that Jon committed "numerous breaches" of the contract's exclusivity provisions via "unauthorized appearances, public statements, press releases, and the disclosure of confidential information."
According to the filing, "the overwhelming majority of [Gosselin's] media appearances and statements... were not approved by [TLC]," resulting in the network "repeatedly" objecting in writing that his conduct -- which included telling CNN host Larry King the family was getting paid $22,500 per Jon & Kate Plus 8 episode -- violated the contract's exclusivity and confidentiality provisions.
Jon also allegedly "entered into a lucrative arrangement to appear regularly on Entertainment Tonight and its companion show, The Insider," "routinely sold photographic rights to various media outlets," and made "false and disparaging statements about TLC and [Kate Gosselin]."
In addition, the lawsuit also alleges Jon has "failed to render services and has interfered with the provision of services," made "promotional appearances and product endorsements" that have violated the agreement, and was featured in "photographs and stories" about "bar and nightclub" appearances in which he was "apparently intoxicated and in the company of women other than his wife" early this year before the couple publicly announced they were separating and filed for divorce on June 22.
The promotional appearance and endorsement violations allegedly include an August 29 paid appearance as the "host" of a pool party at Wet Republic at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.
The lawsuit -- which was filed in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, MD, the home county of TLC's Silver Spring, MD-based Discovery Communications parent company -- contends the breaches have caused the network "significant economic damages."
Given TLC immediately agreed to Jon's demands that it stop filming the children, the lawsuit also notes that the network's plans to relaunch Jon & Kate Plus 8 as Kate Plus 8 "have been suspended indefinitely."
In addition to to-be-determined compensatory damages, any compensation Jon has received from breaching the contract, and the payment of TLC's attorneys' fees, the lawsuit -- which is demanding a trial by jury -- is also asking the court to order Jon to stop violating the agreement.
"Unless [Gosselin] is enjoined from breaching the exclusivity, publicity, and non-endorsement clauses of his contract, [TLC] will suffer further injury," TLC's lawyers wrote.
Jon also apparently won't be getting any more "paychecks" from TLC anytime soon.
"The contract further provides that [TLC] would be indemnified for its legal fees and other expenses in an action to remedy any breach of the contract, including by allowing payments owed to the family under the contract to be withheld or offset in an amount needed to cover these indemnity obligations," the lawsuit states.
Heller told The Associated Press he had not read the filing yet and had no immediate comment when initially reached on Friday.