Steve Hedley has added a very useful page on blog posts relating to restitution to his wonderful site of legal resources on Restitution and Unjust Enrichment. From it, I learn of an entertaining post Hand over the money, Skippy by Legal Eagle on skepticlawyer.
On television, before Barney, long before Barney, there was Skippy, Skippy, Skippy, the bush kangaroo we all love to hate, or at least to parody. Now, Legal Eagle directs us to a fabulous story in which Actor Tony Bonner wants residuals from Skippy:
AFTER 40 years it seems there’s one last adventure left for Skippy, Australia’s iconic television kangaroo – Skippy Goes To Court.
Actor Tony Bonner [link added], the star of the show that debuted in the late 1960s and sold to more than 128 countries, has lodged a claim in the Supreme Court that could be worth “millions”.
With the show still running overseas in places such as Hong Kong, he is seeking declarations that he’s entitled to a share of four decades worth of profits from the show, merchandising and associated film and music spin-offs. …
Sydney lawyer Rick Mitry, representing Bonner, said yesterday: “I believe he’s entitled to be compensated for his role in the show.
As Legal Eagle says, it’s hard to imagine what his cause of action would be, especially without access to the original contracts between the parties:
Itâ€™s not really a question of â€œcompensationâ€? in the true sense because he has not suffered a â€œlossâ€?, other than perhaps the loss of opportunity to bargain for a share of the profits. It seems more to be a case for a reasonable fee representing his contributions towards the profits of the television series.
It might be that he is arguing that there was an implied term in the contract relating to residuals, and that the failure to pay them is a breach of that contract (though he would then be limited to claiming only six years worth of residuals under s14 of the NSW Limitation Act, 1969). Or it might be that he is arguing that the initial failure to discuss and the later failure to pay the residuals amounted to fraud, which could extend the period to 30 years, but fraud is notoriously difficult to plead and prove. And, in either case, residuals were hardly the major feature of the television industry in the 1960s that they are today.
Since the law of contract is probably not very helpful to Bonner’s claim, it might after all be a case where doctrines like “unjust enrichment” or “equitable compensation” or “unconscionability” have been very loosely pleaded, in the hope that one of them will firm up over the course of the case. In any case, [insert Skippy joke to taste], I shall watch this one with interest, via skepticlawyer.