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Popular TV Stars Not Immune to Breach of Contract Lawsuits


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1/1/2016
Jonathan Cooper
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Reality television is a popular genre that often turns non-actors into quasi-celebrities. Along with appearances on the shows themselves, the participants are frequently the subject of radio, television, and magazine interviews. The rumors of a pending breach of contract action against one such television star should serve as a warning to all reality television participants: pay close attention to the terms of your contract! No matter how successful the show may be, producers may file suit against you if you breach its terms. 

Recently, it was announced that the producers of the popular television show Basketball Wives plan to file suit against one of their stars, Jennifer Williams, ex-wife of former professional basketball player Eric Williams. Since contracting with the show, Jennifer Williams has made several appearances on radio programs during which she allegedly “bashed” the show for its negative portrayal of African-American women. According to producers:
  • Jennifer’s contract states that cast members cannot participate in any interviews or media appearances without the consent of the show.
  • Jennifer’s contract states that the cast cannot speak negatively of the reality show.
  • Jennifer’s statements and contract violations are “ruining the brand” of the show.

As part of her defense, Jennifer may argue that the show has allowed other stars to participate in unapproved interviews without repercussion. Therefore, the intent of the contract is not to ban all such media appearances and the allowance of these other interviews has modified its terms.

If this action were filed under New York contract law, the court would look at whether the provisions in question were clearly written. If the provisions pertaining to pre-approval of interviews and negatively speaking of the show were held to be unambiguous, the law is clear. The court will not change the meaning of the provision nor will it consider extrinsic evidence to interpret the plain language.

The potential lawsuit against Jennifer Williams serves as a warning to all reality stars, as well as to anyone entering into a New York contract. Parties to contracts should exercise extreme caution before breaching any terms of the agreement, regardless of whether the other party has permitted such breaches in the past.

For more information about what to do when you suspect a breach of contract, contact a New York breach of contract attorney today at (888) 497-3410.


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