Federal prosecutors in Washington are not giving up trying to get back the $225,000 that the government contends it mistakenly paid to the producers of an IMAX film about dinosaurs that is playing at the Smithsonian Institution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in April sued Comet Distribution Ltd. to recoup the alleged overpayment. But the case hit a snag. For months, according to prosecutors, the government was unable to serve the necessary court papers to let the case move forward.
The hitch now appears resolved. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell this month was preparing to dismiss the case for the prosecutors’ failure to find Comet’s agent to serve the suit.
An assistant U.S. attorney, Judith Kidwell, said the government has now delivered the suit to Comet’s agent, Valerie Thibault, in Dade City, Fla. Kidwell said in court papers (PDF) this month that the government had trouble finding Thibault because she had moved.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, William Miller, on Monday confirmed Comet has been served a copy of the suit. Miller, however, declined further comment about the status of the civil case.
Thibault was not reached for comment Monday afternoon. Carl Samson, a producer of “Dinosaurs 3D: Giants of Patagonia,” the 40-minute film that is playing at the National Museum of Natural History, did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
In June, Samson sent Kidwell an e-mail asking for a “proposal agreement,” court records show. Samson responded to a message from Kidwell that inquired about Thibault’s whereabouts. Neither side in the dispute has filed court papers suggesting the dispute has settled. There is no attorney of record identified for Comet.
The suit against Comet alleges unjust enrichment stemming from the government’s mistaken extra payment for the licensing and exhibition of the dinosaurs film. The government claims it sent in mistake an extra $300,000 to Comet. Comet, according to the suit, returned $75,000.
The Smithsonian and Comet entered into a 50-year contract for the dinosaurs film. The Smithsonian, according to the contract, agreed to pay a one-time fee of $600,000.
The contract allowed two installments—one before March 1, 2008 and the other before October 1, 2008. Prosecutors contend the government paid an extra $300,000 in October 2008.