Settlement proceeds from a writers’ dispute involving the film “Olympus Has Fallen” must be further divided pursuant to one of the writer’s divorce agreements, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the court ruled in Bausch v. Green that screenwriter John Green, who co-wrote the 2013 thriller starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and others, needed to halve the $175,000 he received from a settlement agreement with his former writing partner, who had marketed and sold the script allegedly without his knowledge. The ruling affirmed a decision from the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.
Green argued his former wife, Jessica Bausch, was not entitled to the money because their agreement did not cover lawsuit proceeds that may be realized after the marriage. But the Superior Court panel, led by Judge Victor Stabile, said the proceeds were essentially the result of a sale.
“The trial court found that the script was sold for $175,000. The record, indeed [Green's] trial testimony, confirms those facts. Subsequent to that sale, [Green] relinquished any rights to the movie produced from the script,” Stabile said. “The [divorce agreement] does not specify which party had to sell the script, nor does the [divorce agreement] define proceeds.”
According to Stabile, Green and Bausch married in 1997, and finalized their divorce in 2005. In 2003, they entered into a property settlement agreement that said, among other things, that if Green “receives any monies or other proceeds from the sale of that certain motion picture script entitled ‘Olympus Is Fallen,’ husband shall promptly pay one-half of the Olympus proceeds to [Bausch].”
Stabile said that Green, along with his former writing partner Creighton Rothenberger, had written a script that they titled “Olympus Is Fallen.” After their business partnership ended, Rothenberger marketed and sold the script, allegedly without Green’s knowledge, Stabile said. In 2013, Green learned that their script had been used as the basis for ”Olympus Has Fallen,” Stabile said.
Green and Rothenberger litigated the rights to the movie script in California court, and, according to Stabile, Green testified that the script Rothenberger sold in 2012 had been heavily edited and revised. The parties, however, settled the dispute, with Green receiving a total of $194,687, including $175,000 in exchange for his rights to the film.
After Bausch sought her portion of the proceeds under their agreement, Green contended that, because the script had been sold by a third party, his agreement with Bausch did not cover the lawsuit proceeds. He further contended that the Domestic Relations Code does not include payment for a lawsuit that occurred after the parties’ separation.
Stabile, however, said Green did not cite any law saying that the Domestic Relations Code does not allow a spouse to recover proceeds from property that otherwise falls under the parties’ property agreement.
“Appellant invites us to conclude that [Bausch's] right to her share under the [agreement] depended on Rothenberger’s voluntary compliance with that agreement,” Stabile said. “That appellant and Rothenberger proceeded to litigation does not change the fact that the agreement and release compensated appellant for Rothenberger’s sale of the script.”
Green’s attorney, Michael Alan Siddons of Media, Pennsylvania, said his client had not yet advised about whether he would seek an appeal of the ruling. Bausch’s attorney, Thomas Myers Jr. of Paoli, Pennsylvania, did not return a call for comment.
(Copies of the 10-page opinion in Bausch v. Green, PICS No. 18-0463, are available athttp://at.law.com/PICS.)