Another big fat lawsuit has been filed over the most successful independent movie of all time.


A shell company formed to create tax shelters for producers and investors of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" has sued for tens of millions of dollars in unpaid profits related to the 2002 release, which cost $5 million to make and grossed $600 million in worldwide revenues.


"There were tax shelters that were used to help finance portions of motion picture budgets for motion pictures that were produced in Canada," said Scott Niemeyer, chief operating officer of Gold Circle Films, an affiliate of the suit's defendant, Big Wedding LLC. "They were Canadian tax shelters hence it drove a lot of production into Canada in those years."


He declined to comment on the allegations of the suit, which was filed in L.A. Superior Court.


According to court papers, many of the financial statements between 2002 and 2004 were sent a year late and were deemed "inadequate" because they did not calculate profits based on adjusted net receipts.


Under the contract, the shell company, referred to as VC HMBW Inc., was to "start out by getting a percentage of a production budget, then get a certain fee based on adjusted net receipts," said Jeff Riffer, a partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP, who represents the shell. "After that, the money was 10 percent of net receipts and then an annual fee, too. It's a complicated formula."


He estimates that the shell is owed "tens of millions of dollars."


The suit is one of several filed against producers of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." In January 2003, the former manager for Nia Vardalos, who starred in the movie, claimed that she reneged on a verbal agreement to pay him 15 percent of her compensation from the movie.


In July 2003, MPH Entertainment Inc. sued the producers, who include Tom Hanks' Playtone Co., for $20.6 million in lost profits.


Spilled Milk
An L.A. truck driver is set to go to trial next month against a local milk distributor he claims fired him after he complained that cartons leaked, causing milk to spill onto the highway. Under California law, nothing but feathers or water is allowed to fall out of trucks onto public roads.


Pete Guinan, who began working at the Buena Park facility of Dean Foods of California Inc. in June 1998, claims that milk leaked from the company's trucks.


He also said residue from eggnog remained on storage tanks and containers and that the trucks weren't cleaned.


He said he complained to his supervisor and several government agencies but was fired in May 1999.


"The company has never had any driver fined for such spillage, and subpoenas to public agencies disclosed there is no record of such complaints," said Arthur Silbergeld, a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, who represents Dean Foods Co., which is based in Dallas.


Silbergeld said Guinan accumulated seven disciplinary actions over 10 months, including taking the wrong delivery truck out of the yard and causing a trailer to fall over.


Guinan is seeking more than $500,000 in the suit. Trial is set for Dec. 14.


New Judges
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced five appointments to the Los Angeles Superior Court. The Republicans are: Robert Applegate, who has served as commissioner for the Los Angeles Superior Court for six years; Daniel Murphy, most recently an assistant Long Beach city prosecutor; Margaret Oldendorf, who served as senior staff counsel for the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association since 1996; and Otis Wright, who has been a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP since 1983.


The lone Democrat is Mike Camacho, a deputy district attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office since 1988.


Separately, Schwarzenegger appointed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chavez to the 2nd Appellate District. Chavez has been a Superior Court judge since 1992.


Comings & Goings
A team of eight Los Angeles lawyers at O'Melveny & Myers LLP represented Verizon Communications Inc. in its antitrust issues involved in acquiring MCI Inc. The team was led by Tim Muris, of counsel to O'Melveny and advised Verizon before the Department of Justice, which cleared the deal on Oct. 27.


Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com .

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