Another ‘Sahara’ decision has both sides claiming victory, again

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There may not be a sequel in the works for the 2005 movie ‘Sahara’ starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, but the legal battles over the infamous box office bomb just keep on going.

On Wednesday, there was another decision in ‘Sahara’ author Clive Cussler’s legal battle with Crusader Films (now doing business as Bristol Bay Productions) and, as has been the case in the past, both sides are claiming victory.

First the back story. Cussler sued Crusader in 2004, seeking $40 million. He claimed Crusader, which is owned by Anschutz Film Group, did not honor his contract to have approval over the screenplay. Anschutz and Crusader countersued, alleging that Cussler inflated book sales to land a movie deal and didn’t help promote the film as he had promised.

In 2007, Crusader was awarded $5 million by a Los Angeles Superior Court, but jurors in the case also said Cussler was due $8.5 million from Crusader/Bristol Bay for a second novel that was not made into a movie. A judge later reversed that decision and Cussler’s lawyer appealed the ruling.


On Wednesday, the California Court of Appeals handed down its ruling and both sides sounded like they were popping the champagne. Anschutz’s team said Cussler lost each of his claims for relief and is owed nothing.

Cussler’s lawyer, Bert Fields, said the court reversed the $5 million award to Cruasder and that ‘Crusader was barred from claiming that Cussler was not entitled to the balance of payments under the contract ... Cussler is totally vindicated.’

But Crusader’s lawyer, Marvin Putnam, had a different spin on the decision.

‘As the jury correctly found, Crusader did not harm Clive Cussler in any way and owes him nothing. Now, although he was first to sue, Cussler comes away with empty hands,’ Putnam said in a statement.

We wouldn’t be surprised if this case isn’t over yet.

-- Joe Flint