Judge denies EA motion to dismiss in $400M Infinity Ward case

Publisher remains party to Activision suit against former Call of Duty heads Jason West, Vince Zampella; employee-group royalty suit amended with fraud complaints.

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Activision's effort to have Electronic Arts added to its massive $400 million contract-breach lawsuit against former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella is officially a go. The Los Angeles Times reports today that Northern California Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle dismissed all but one of EA's objections of being added to the suit, paving the way for the trial in May.

EA unsuccessfully evaded Activision's grasp.
EA unsuccessfully evaded Activision's grasp.

According to the LA Times, Judge Berle cited EA's alleged pursuit of confidential information from West and Zampella as cause for not granting the publisher's motion to dismiss. EA lawyer Robert Klieger reportedly argued during the hearing that Activision had not produced any evidence of said pursuit, calling the claim a "conclusionary allegation."

Activision had not responded to GameSpot's request for comment as of press time. However, EA spokesperson Jeff Brown had, telling GameSpot, "Activision’s attempt to drag others into the suit is subterfuge. This has always been a simple case of two artists trying to get paid for their work. We’re confident that the jury will side with Jason and Vince and order Activision to pay them the hundreds of millions they are owed."

The battle between EA, Activision, Jason West, and Vince Zampella began in March 2010, when the Call of Duty publisher fired its star Infinity Ward leaders, claiming insubordination. Those terminations led to an ongoing saga that saw mass defections from developer Infinity Ward, the creation of West and Zampella's new studio Respawn Entertainment under EA's auspices, and a volley of litigation between the pair, Activision, and current and former Infinity Ward employees.

As for that last bit of litigation, the LA Times also reports that the group of 40 former Infinity Ward employees have once again amended their complaint over unpaid royalties against Activision. The new complaint reportedly adds a half-dozen more claims against Activision, including fraud.

Of these new claims, the group of 40 alleges that Activision engaged in direct and indirect fraud through promises of "enhanced bonuses" for the completion of Modern Warfare 2.

"All of these promises to Infinity Ward employees were in significant part the product of Activision's intense determination in early 2008 to close a proposed merger with another video game company, Vivendi Blizzard," reads a copy of the complaint obtained by GameSpot. "For Activision and its top executives to reap the rewards of that merger required the ability to promise its merger partner that Infinity Ward would remain intact and would develop, produce, and deliver on schedule a new Modern Warfare 2 game."

"To achieve that goal, Activision greatly increased the value and attractiveness of the bonuses, royalties, and creative authority promises it made to West, Zampella, and the plaintiffs," it continued. "But Activision had no intention of actually honoring the very favorable promises it made, including but not limited to the promises to pay plaintiffs enhanced bonus payments."

The group of 40 is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensatory damages.

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