Actor Corbin Bernsen involved in contract dispute

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Actor Corbin Bernsen is probably most familiar to Florida residents as the character he played, Arnie Becker, on the long-running TV show “L.A. Law.” Additionally, Bernsen can still be found acting, most recently in USA Network’s show “Psych.”

Back in 2009 he agreed to a five-year employment contract worth $1 million as the pitchman for television advertisements for law firms. However, he has recently filed a lawsuit against the marketing company responsible for the contract. Bernsen is seeking nearly $700,000 that he believes he is still owed under the contract.

The marketing company on the other hand argues that they were within their contractual rights to no longer honor the contract. They claim that Bernsen breached the contract by violating the terms of the morality clause.

Morality clauses are often found in employment contracts with actors and actresses. The goal of a morality clause is to protect the vendor from situations in which the employee’s reputation has been called into question. If such is the case, the vendor may cancel the contract in order to sever their association with that actor or actress.

Did Bernsen breach the morality clause in his employment contract? Let’s look specifically at what morality violations we are talking about. Bernsen is accused of:

  • Tax issues with the Internal Revenue Service
  • Accusations of assault
  • Publicly arguing with resort employees
  • Discussing sex and drugs, and casting attorneys in a negative light during a television show

A court will now decide whether these allegations amount to the violation of Bernsen’s morality clause in his employment contract, or whether the company is simply trying to figure out how to escape responsibility for the terms of the contract.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, “L.A. Law” star testifies in contract dispute in Norfolk,” Tim McGlone, Nov. 8, 2012