Plaintiffs, a television production company and an individual, filed suit against defendant toy manufacturer for breach of an implied-in-fact contract for allegedly using plaintiffs’ ideas for an animated television series and related toy lines, presented to the manufacturer in July 1993, without paying for those ideas. A jury of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, California, returned a defense verdict. Plaintiffs appealed the judgment.
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Plaintiffs alleged that the manufacturer’s dolls appeared with characteristics that were similar to plaintiffs’ concept, thus destroying plaintiffs’ opportunity to market the concept or a cartoon series based on it. Plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred by: (1) instructing the jury that plaintiffs had to clearly condition the disclosure of their idea on the manufacturer’s agreement to pay and by refusing to instruct that if the manufacturer requested plaintiffs to submit their idea, such a solicitation implied a promise to pay; and (2) not allowing plaintiffs to introduce rebuttal evidence negating the manufacturer’s evidence that it would never have agreed to purchase plaintiffs’ idea due to the attributes of that toy line. The instant court concluded that the jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. An instruction incorrectly forced the jury to find against plaintiffs unless they clearly conditioned their disclosure on the manufacturer’s agreement to pay if it used the concept or any portion of it. Plaintiffs’ proffered evidence was tangentially relevant to demonstrate possible discrepancies in the manufacturer’s expert’s analysis of the concept’s toy line.
The judgment was reversed. Costs on appeal were awarded to plaintiffs.