A Los Angeles judge issued a tentative ruling today in favor of Ashton Kutcher's television company in a lawsuit alleging the state reneged on an agreement to provide access to Department of Motor Vehicle offices for a reality show centered on the agency.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson said he was inclined to deny the state's motion to dismiss Katalyst Media's lawsuit, which alleges causes of action for breach-of-contract and promissory estoppel. Promissory estoppel prevents one side from breaking a promise if the other party has reasonably relied on it.
A second company working with Katalyst Media, Soda and Pop Inc., also is suing the state. A hearing is scheduled Monday, in which the attorneys will be allowed to argue their positions before Johnson issues a final decision.
Katalyst Media and Soda and Pop maintain the DMV broke a May 2011 agreement to allow the firms access to field offices to produce a half-hour reality show giving insight to the agency's daily activities. The suit was filed last June 19.
The state maintains the agreement lacks essential terms because it does not indicate when filming would begin and which field offices would be featured. But Johnson said that Kutcher's lawyers allege that the DMV later agreed to the specifics.
"These subsequent agreements may be construed with the original agreement," Johnson wrote.
Johnson also wrote that although the state maintains the companies did not obtain a film permit to produce the programs, the plaintiffs' lawyers "have alleged in general language that they have complied with all necessary conditions to their agreement."
Lawyers for the companies say the agreement with the state allowed the clients access to all but the downtown Los Angeles, Compton and Inglewood field offices. The locations in Montebello, Van Nuys, Santa Monica, Torrance and Culver City were to be featured first, the plaintiffs' lawyers maintain.
A deputy attorney general wrote the companies in December 2011 saying "the proposed project does not directly serve the public interest or carry out DMV's mission,'' the plaintiffs' lawyers state in their court papers.