Writers' Lawsuit Still in the Prologue Stage

An age-discrimination lawsuit filed last October by 28 movie and television writers is on hold pending a ruling by the judge overseeing the case.

The federal class-action lawsuit, which seeks to redress alleged age bias that prevents writers age 40 and older from getting work in Hollywood, was filed in California against more than 50 studios, television networks, production companies and talent agencies.

Lawyers for the defendants responded to the suit by filing two separate motions aimed at squelching the case.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson is expected to rule on the defense motions in a month or two. The defense has argued both that the case has no legal merit and, in a separate motion to sever, that the plaintiffs' grievances are too individual to be lumped together as a class-action suit against the industry.

"The defense have put a lot of eggs in the motion to dismiss [and] motion to sever basket," said Daniel Wolf, attorney for the Washington-based firm Sprenger & Lang, the lead law firm for the plaintiffs. If the judge rules for the plaintiffs, lawyers hope to get the case to trial within a year.

Since the suit was filed, the complaint was amended to add 22 more writers, bringing the total to 50 named plaintiffs. The suit seeks unspecified damages and court supervision of network and studio hiring for five years or longer. Sprenger & Lang previously won an $8-million settlement from CBS Inc. on behalf of more than 200 female technicians working at TV stations across the country who claimed that they were victims of sexual discrimination in pay and promotions.

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