A federal appeals court ruled today that a legal action taken by an NBC employee against MSNBC’s Ed Schultz over compensation from his television deal may proceed to a jury. Michael Queen sued Schultz in 2011, alleging fraud and breach of contract, among other charges, in the aftermath of what Queen alleges was a partnership with Schultz to secure a television program for him.
The story begins in January 2007, back when Schultz was a fiery radio personality in Fargo, N.D. Queen wanted to put Schultz on television. The two met when Schultz visited NBC’s Washington facility in January 2008. Queen asked whether anyone was working with Schultz to make him a TV star. “No. Now you’re it,” Schultz responded, in Queen’s account. Shortly thereafter, Queen worked on the project with Schultz’s support. Part of the project involved taping Schultz’s guest TV appearances for the creation of a highlight reel.
After some bumps in the process of reaching a written deal on making the show a reality, Schultz in April 2008 wrote to Queen: “I will not do a TV deal without your involvement and that includes financial involvement.” Queen proceeded, pitching the Schultz show to MSNBC, NBC and even Fox News! No takers.
In 2009, Queen was pursuing a deal with WUSA-TV, a local CBS station in the Washington, D.C., area. However, MSNBC President Phil Griffin contacted Schultz directly and inked a contract with the fiery liberal. Schultz’s first show appeared on MSNBC in April 2009.
Queen ended up on the outside. Notes a court document: “ ‘The Ed Show’ is owned, operated and produced by MSNBC, and the defendant appears on the program as an independent contractor, pursuant to a contract between Ed Schultz Productions, LLC and MSNBC.”
In a press release that coincided with his suit against Schultz, Queen said: “We pitched the TV idea to various network executives, produced a TV pilot, secured an apartment in D.C. for Ed and his wife Wendy and even gave them a car to drive free for three months. We picked them up at the airport, and went shopping for them – all while helping them become millionaires, and we received nothing for our efforts!”
In August 2012, Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for D.C. tossed Queen’s claims (as well as the counter-claims of Schultz). Today’s appeals court ruling, however, essentially puts Queen back in business. “[I]nsofar as Queen claims that he and Schultz formed a partnership to develop a television show and that Schultz breached his duty of loyalty under District of Columbia partnership law, Queen is entitled to present his claim to a jury,” reads the decision.