We broke the news on Dec. 8 that the federal judge overseeing the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire trial had tentatively denied Disney's appeal of the massive $319 million jury verdict in favor of producer Celador Intl.
Federal judges don't often reverse their tentative rulings, especially Judge Virginia Phillips, who has been especially meticulous in the way she's handled this high-profile case.
Now Phillips has issued a 54-page ruling (read it in full here), which upholds the July verdict that Disney and its ABC and Buena Vista Television subsidiaries cheated Celador out of millions by cutting sweetheart deals to bring Millionaire to America. Full backstory on the case is here. The detailed opinion denying Disney's motions to reverse the verdict and order a new trial suggests Phillips knows this case is headed for appeal, which Disney has said it will pursue to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. The studio has 30 days to file a notice of appeal after the final judgment is entered, which should happen within a few days.
"After six and a half years of litigation and five weeks of testimony, nine jurors came to a unanimous conclusion," Roman Silberfeld, Celador's lead lawyer, tells us. "So it's hard for me to imagine that an appeals court will see it differently."