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‘NCIS,’ ‘JAG’ creator Don Bellisario settles lawsuit with CBS over 'NCIS: LA'

By Daniel S Levine,

Don Bellisario, the creator of ratings juggernaut NCIS and JAG, has reached a settlement with CBS TV Studios after suing the company over revenue from NCIS: Los Angeles. The deal comes just days before the trial was set to begin next week.

According to Deadline, Bellisario sued the studio back in April 2011 for breach of contract, saying that he was entitled to profits from NCIS: LA, a spin-off of NCIS (which itself is a spin-off of JAG), but he was shut-out of NCIS: LA. Bellisario was fired from NCIS in 2007 when star Mark Harmon was ready to quit.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Bellisario’s argument was based in two agreements he made with CBS TV Studios’ predecessor, Paramount TV Studios, in 1992 and 2002. Since a judge later ruled that the 2002 agreement expired, he said that NCIS: LA had elements of JAG, which made it a spin-off, despite what CBS claimed.

Bellisario’s lawyers hoped for a trial, but CBS didn’t want the case to go that far. Then, the case took another turn when he came down with a series of health setbacks and required surgery over the summer. Suddenly, his health became a factor, since CBS then argued that his health would have prevented him from running NCIS: LA and they requested his medical records. His lawyers argued against that and the judge sided with them.

Today, CBS TV Studios president David Stapf and Bellisario issued a joint statement confirming that a settlement was reached.

“We’re pleased to settle this lawsuit on amicable terms and put this dispute to rest,” Stapf said. “Although we differed in opinion on this matter, our admiration, appreciation and respect for Mr. Bellisario has never wavered throughout. We consider him one of the best creative talents of his time and a valued member of the CBS family, whose shows, both past and present, have played an important role in CBS’s success.”

Bellisario, 77, added that he is “gratified” to see his contributions recognized.

Financial terms were not disclosed. His programs have generated $116 million for the network.

 

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