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A federal appeals court has affirmed a $4 million jury verdict for a South Carolina real estate broker who claims to have created the concept for Flip This House, a reality television show on A&E. “We’re pleased that the appellate court let the jury verdict stand,” said a lawyer for the broker, William “Billy” Wilkins, former chief judge of the 4th Circuit, in a prepared statement. “The creator of Flip This House, Richard Davis, deserved to be compensated for the work. A&E breached its contract and refused to pay the money due.” Wilkins is located in the Greenville, S.C., office of Nexsen Pruet, which is based in Columbia, S.C. A call to A&E’s lawyer, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, now a partner at New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton, was referred to A&E spokesman Michael Feeney. Feeney did not return a call for comment. Flip This House follows the trials and travails of various real estate investors who purchase and renovate homes, then flip them to sell at a profit. Davis alleged that he came up with the idea for the show in 2003 and submitted a pilot to several television networks, including A&E, the following year, according to the 4th Circuit’s opinion. He discussed developing a series from his idea while on a telephone call with A&E’s director of lifestyle programming, Charles Norlander, on June 3, 2004, the opinion says. When Davis suggested that the two equally split the net revenues from the show, Norlander replied: “Okay, okay, I get it.” In 2006, Davis and his company, Trademark Properties Inc., sued A&E Television Networks; the show’s production company, Departure Films; ABC Inc.; and NBC Universal, alleging that the telephone conversation with Norlander constituted an oral agreement and that A&E, which never put the deal in writing, neglected to pay him net revenues from the show. He sued for $7.5 million in damages. A federal jury in South Carolina awarded him $4 million – or half the net revenue of the first season of Flip This House. A&E appealed, arguing that Davis lacked evidence of an oral agreement based on the telephone call. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 opinion on April 11, disagreed. “We can safely say that statement does not objectively convey unambiguous and unequivocal acceptance of Plaintiff’s offer,” wrote Senior Judge Bobby Baldock, sitting by designation from the 10th Circuit, who was joined by Judge Robert King in the opinion. “We cannot say, however, that such a statement made in a certain tone of voice or in a given context could not plausibly mean ‘I accept.’” Justice Allyson Duncan dissented, finding there was no contract. “Because I do not believe a reasonable person would interpret ‘Okay, okay, I get it,’ alone as acceptance, or indeed as anything other than ‘I understand what you are saying,’ I must respectfully dissent,” she wrote. Amanda Bronstad can be contacted at [email protected].

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