MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — The Alabama Supreme Court Thursday ruled against the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission, ASSEC, which oversees Space Camp, in a long-running dispute with a New York-based firm over an animated series.
The court sided with the firm, Space Race, LLC, and directed a Madison County Circuit judge to dismiss ASSEC’s claims challenging a New York arbitrator’s award of $1.36 million to Space Race for animation work it had produced but had not received payment.
In its ruling Thursday the court spelled out the background of the dispute:
ASSEC signed a deal with Space Race in July 2016 to create a television show aimed at promoting space interest in children.
In the agreement, ASSEC was to pay Space Race with funding from NASA at the end of each year in the three-year contract. The show had a successful first season and Space Race went on to create two more seasons.
After failing to receive over $1 million in payment from ASSEC and a notification that they would not be paying, Space Race filed an arbitration lawsuit in December 2017.
ASSEC notified Space Race that it could not pay the remaining balance due to the grant from NASA being terminated. But, Space Race said that ASSEC failed to provide proper documents for the funding to continue.
Arbitrators said that ASSEC intentionally breached the agreement with Space Race and awarded the remaining balance to Space Race, according to court documents.
In February 2019, ASSEC filed to vacate the award in Alabama but the case was stayed due to the ongoing proceedings in New York. New York declined to consider ASSEC’s appeal and again, ruled in Space Race’s favor.
ASSEC’s efforts asking a Madison County Circuit Court to vacate the award were challenged by Space Race. ASSEC’s attorneys have argued the ASSEC is an agency of the State of Alabama and is immune from being sued under the concept of sovereign immunity.
Space Race’s motion to have ASSEC’s lawsuit dismissed was denied by Madison County Circuit Judge Claude Hundley in May. Hundley’s ruling was appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which issued its ruling Thursday. That ruling included instructions that the trial court should dismiss ASSEC’s claims.
The state supreme court noted the New York court had a full hearing on ASSEC’s claims of sovereign immunity and it decided ASSEC should be not be considered the equivalent of the State of Alabama.
News 19 reached out to the Space & Rocket Center for comment. A spokesperson said they do not comment on litigation matters.