“New Girl” Plagiarism Lawsuit Shot Down by Judge

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A judge just struck down accusations of plagiarism against “New Girl,” arguing that there was not enough evidence for the plaintiffs, writers Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold, to prove that the show’s concept was originally theirs. So, despite the fact that Counts and Gold were asking for the show’s production to cease, it’s safe to say we’ll be all seeing “New Girl” on FOX for at least a little while longer.

Counts and Gold claim that the premise of “New Girl” resembled the pilot of a show they wrote, called “Square One.” In their lawsuit, Counts and Gold posited that there were a few different ways that the people behind “New Girl”–namely Peter Chernin, whose company produces “New Girl,” and showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether–could have seen the “Square One” script.  One was that Counts and Gold showed the script to an independent producer named Holly Harter, who shared it with a the William Morris Endeavor (WME) talent agency. Chernin and Meriweather were also represented by WME at the time–Counts and Gold allege that it could have fallen into their hands through the agency. Another theory presented by Counts and Gold was that Meriweather knew a WME agent named David Karp–they argued he could have somehow given her the script. Either way, Counts and Gold argued that WME was the path that connected their show and “New Girl,” and therefore included WME and several of its agents in the lawsuit as well.

Counts and Gold claimed that the similarities between “Square One” and “New Girl” were obvious. For one, the premise is similar–Counts based her version on her real-life experience of discovering her husband was cheating and then moving into a bachelor pad with three male roommates. That’s almost exactly how “New Girl” starts, although the “new girl” character has a cheating boyfriend, not husband. Additionally, Counts and Gold argue that they actually suggested Zooey Deschanel, the lead of “New Girl” as the start of “Square One,” and that some of the characters featured in the show were similar, including one of the male roommates who is a bartender.

However, in a decision handed down just before the new year, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson proclaimed that Counts and Gold didn’t have enough evidence to show that Meriweather or others involved in the production of “New Girl” could have accessed the “Square One” script. Additionally, he pointed out that the similarities alleged by Counts and Gold weren’t very strong, writing:

Moreover, even assuming arguendo that a triable issue of access exists, no reasonable jury could conclude that there are substantial similarities in the plot, sequence of events, characters, mood, pace, setting, theme or dialogue between ‘Square One’ and ‘New Girl.’ For these reasons, the Court grants Defendants’ motion for summary judgment

So, the lawsuit has been essentially stopped in its tracks–Counts and Gold won’t get the money they were looking for, or the cessation of all future episodes. It’s certainly good news for “New Girl’s” fans–and good timing too, as the show returns to FOX tonight with a new episode.


Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.



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