CBS TV Sues ‘The Firm’ Writer for Allegedly Stealing Series Concept

Series adaptation of John Grisham’s legal thriller, which will show up on the NBC fall schedule, sparks some real-life courtroom drama

Here's a case that would test even Mitch McDeere's legal mettle.

CBS Television Studios filed a lawsuit against writer Lukas Reiter Tuesday, claiming that Reiter stole the idea for the TV adaptation of the John Grisham novel "The Firm" from them and sold it to NBC.

According to court papers obtained by TheWrap, Reiter and CBS entered an agreement in Nov. 2008 for Reiter to whip up a script for an hour-long pilot based on the book concept.

Under the agreement, Reiter would receive a teleplay fee of $250,000, and CBS would receive "exclusive rights to the results and proceeds of Reiter's work" as a work-for-hire.

However, CBS claims, Reiter and his production company, Entertainment One, licensed the series idea to NBC, despite CBS' stated refusal to relinquish the rights at Entertainment One's request.

The subsequent script provided to NBC is nearly identical in many aspects to the script that Reiter had been commissioned to write for CBS, the suit claims, amounting to a "cut and paste" job on the earlier work.

CBS, which is sung for tortious interference and breach of contract, is seeking unspecified damages, plus court costs and interest.

NBC's "The Firm," which is scheduled to premiere midseason in the 2011-12 season on NBC, picks up several years after where the 1993 film "The Firm" left off. It stars Josh Lucas as Mitch McDeere, Callum Keith Rennie as Ray McDeere and Juliette Lewis as Mitch's secretary, Tammy.

Reiter's representative, CBS Television Studios and NBC did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.