Quinta Brunson Claims She Didn’t Steal ‘Abbott Elementary’ Show Idea. She and ABC Seek to Have Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Dropped

Quinta Brunson, the lead actress and creator of the breakout TV series “Abbott Elementary” is demanding that a lawsuit accusing her of using another writer’s idea for the hit ABC show be dismissed by the court. 

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Quinta Brunson attends the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 12, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/FilmMagic)

Recent court documents obtained by Radar reveal that Brunson and ABC are requesting that the federal lawsuit be thrown out and their legal fees paid by the plaintiff, Christine Davis. 

“Abbott Elementary” is a television show highlighting the challenges educators face at a public school in Philadelphia. The lead character is Janine Teagues, an optimistic second teacher who is played by Brunson. The show first aired in 2021 and has been a fan favorite with Brunson being named one of “Time” magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” after becoming the first Black woman to receive three nominations in the comedy category for writing, acting and series at the Primetime Emmys. Brunson also won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2022. She has a current net worth of $3 Million. 

The lawsuit filed by Davis demanded that she receive all profits Brunson and ABC made from the show. 

Brunson Rebuttal

Brunson claims no wrongdoing. In her response to the copyright infringement lawsuit, she said the two show concepts are not substantially similar.

“Starting with reading the very first page of Plaintiff’s treatment, it is evident that the concept and feel of the works are wholly dissimilar. While ‘This School Year’ begins with a second-grade teacher Ms. Davis, slamming a book against her face at the idea that a new school year is starting, ‘Abbott Elementary’ begins with a bubbly, positive, and optimistic second grade teacher, Janine Teagues, gushing about how excited she is to be another year with her students,” the court filing reads, according to Radar.

The response continued, “The remainder of the ‘Abbott Elementary’ story focuses on Ms. Teagues and her colleagues doing everything they can to support their students despite the lack of resources and administrative support, while ‘This School Year’ is much more cynical and is focused on the displeasure of the teachers at the prospect of teaching at P.S. 311.”

Two Fictitious Teachers, Two Fictitious Schools, One Real Federal Lawsuit 

In July 2022, Davis filed a federal lawsuit against Brunson, the production companies associated with Abbott Elementary, and the network, ABC. 

According to court documents, Davis claims “Abbott Elementary” is similar to a show she created called “This School Year.” 

“Without [Davis’] permission, license, authority, or consent, [Brunson & ABC] knowingly and illegal used [Davis’] works to create the ‘Abbott Elementary’ television show,” the suit read.

Davis claims she wrote the script for her show in 2018. The- television comedy is set in New York City and centers on teachers being filmed in a documentary style much like “Abbott Elementary.” 

Davis’ show contrasts a principal who believes in the educational system with an optimistic young teacher, Ms. David, who is on the path to tenure yet also working to reform the school. 

Davis registered her idea with the United States Copyright Office in March 2020. Soon after, Davis claims she shared her script with Blue Park Productions and was encouraged to pursue her project as ABC and Hulu were actively looking for comedies led by Black women. Davis claims the production company pitched her show to Hulu but never heard anything else about the project. Davis believes that the defendants stole her idea as ABC began shooting “Abbott Elementary” in September 2020. 

In Davis’ suit, she claims “Abbott Elementary” is stealing the “look and feel of the inner-city school, the mockumentary style, unique plot synopsis, set design and unique characters from” her script. In addition, the suit highlights that “the main characters are all stingingly and substantially similar … from the triad of young teachers whose roles are nearly identical.”

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