Fraud, Ransom and Smokescreens: Inside the ‘7 Little Johnstons’ Lawsuit Between Discovery and LMNO

Fraud, Ransom and Smokescreens: Inside the ‘7 Little Johnstons’ Lawsuit Between Discovery and LMNO

The companies behind the hit TLC series 7 Little Johnstons have faced more than a little bit of legal trouble.

In June 2016, LMNO Productions sued Discovery over more than $2 million worth of footage shot for the reality show. 7 Little Johnstons follows a family of seven, two parents and five children, all born with a type of dwarfism called achondroplasia. The series premiered in January 2015 and is still in production as of January 2024.

Discovery and LMNO Productions Sue Each Other Over Rights to Footage

On June 17, 2016, Discovery sent “notices of termination” to LMNO for six of their series, including 7 Little Johnstons and The Little Couple, according to court documents reviewed by In Touch.

A few days later, on June 22, 2016, LMNO responded by accusing Discovery of several offenses, including copyright infringement, unfair competition, and trademark infringement, and breach of contract. LMNO’s complaint alleged that Discovery’s move was a “smokescreen” so that they could “steal The Little Couple and produce the show behind LMNO’s back.”

LMNO’s complaint further claimed that in late 2015, the California-based corporation “learned that it was a victim of a crime,” according to court documents. The documents alleged that Discovery, which LMNO referred to as a “long time business partner,” took advantage of a fraudulent accountant that was working for the company at the time to “enrich itself at LMNO’s expense.”

The complaint alleged that Discovery had breached their contract, and owed LMNO a flat sum of ​$2,640,000, the agreed cost of production and distribution rights for season 2 of 7 Little Johnstons that had already begun filming. The document noted that at that time, Discovery had only paid LMNO $2,007,952.90 of the total sum, despite the fact that LMNO had already paid “much of the cost of the production” to relevant parties.

In response to LMNO’s lawsuit, Discovery countersued the company for fraud.

Discovery Asks Federal Judge to Make LMNO Turn Over Season 2 Footage

In September 2016, Discovery filed a writ of possession regarding footage shot for season 2 of 7 Little Johnstons, asking a federal judge to force LMNO to turn over the tapes. The filing claimed LMNO was holding footage “ransom,” despite Discovery paying more than $2 million for its production. Discovery claimed that it was unable to complete filming for season 2 of the reality show without the already-shot footage.

LMNO responded to the filing in a statement, claiming Discovery “failed to sign” a contract for season 2 of the show and “failed and refused to pay the agreed-upon price for these episodes.”

Judge Declined to Make LMNO Turn Over Footage to Discovery

In October 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim denied Discovery’s request that LMNO turn over the footage.

“The Court cannot decide Discovery’s application here without necessarily (and perhaps prematurely) adjudicating claims and defenses that must be resolved ultimately by the assigned District Judge,” the judge said, in part, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Judge Recommends LMNO Turn Over Footage to Discovery

In December 2016, amid their continued legal battle, Judge Steve Kim recommended that LMNO turn over the season 2 footage to Discovery after all. Kim believed it was “more likely than not” that Discovery would be granted the rights to the footage, per The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition to recommending a writ of possession in Discovery’s favor, Kim advised U.S. District Judge John Kronstad to “issue an order ‘directing the defendant to transfer possession of the property to the plaintiff’ or be held in contempt of court,” per the outlet.

The Case Is Dismissed Without Prejudice

The LMNO Cable Group, Inc. vs. Discovery Communications, LLC case was “dismissed without prejudice” on July 21, 2020, according to a document reviewed by In Touch. The dismissal came “in light of the parties’ Notice of Settlement,” per the document.

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