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Archie Ingersoll, Published April 09 2014

Federal appeals court revives lawsuit claiming MSNBC host Ed Schultz owes broadcast engineer more than $100,000

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court has ruled that a jury can decide a lawsuit brought by a man who claims he partnered with MSNBC host Ed Schultz to create a talk show but was frozen out when the show made it on the air.

Michael Queen filed the suit in May 2011, saying he helped develop “The Ed Show.” Queen sought 25 percent of Schultz’s salary for the show – a figure he believed he was entitled to based on verbal and email exchanges with Schultz’s camp.

In August 2012, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed the suit, which claimed that Schultz owed Queen more than $100,000. The judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence that a legally enforceable contract was ever struck.

That ruling was upheld Friday by the federal appeals court, but the court also found that a jury can decide Queen’s claim that he and Schultz formed a partnership, which does not require a written contract, to create the show and that Schultz breached his legal obligations within that partnership.

Schultz, a former Fargo sportscaster and liberal radio personality, first met Queen in 2008, when Queen was working as an NBC broadcast engineer and Schultz was visiting NBC’s Washington offices.

According to court documents, Queen said he first pitched the idea for the show to Schultz during the visit, and engaged in talks to develop it with Schultz and Schultz’s attorney over the next several months. Queen said he pitched the show to networks and helped Schultz develop a pilot, court documents stated.

But those pitches didn’t pan out, and in 2009, Schultz got a deal with MSNBC. Queen sought a cut but was denied, and his relationship with Schultz fell apart.

“There was never a partnership,” Schultz’s attorney, Jeffrey Landa, said Wednesday. “To be a partner, you have to own it. Ed doesn’t even own that show.”

Landa said the appellate court ruling was not a judgment on the partnership issue but rather an acknowledgement that there are facts on both sides that a jury can sort through.

“Schultz is saying one thing, and Queen is saying another,” Landa said. “That was enough to remand it back to the District Court.”

Queen’s attorney, Steven Teppler, said he and his client are pleased with the appellate court’s decision.

“We definitely look forward to taking this to trial,” he said, declining to comment further.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734