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Lord of the Rings Lawsuit to go to Jury

A jury should decide the claims in the suit by heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien against New Line Cinema over profits from the LORD OF THE RINGS film trilogy, ruled Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones on Tuesday (per VARIETY).

The defense had motioned that a judge, not a jury, hear the lawsuit. Jones also denied a defense motion asking that she hear and decide some of the claims before a jury heard the rest.

Tolkien trust attorney Bonnie E. Eskenazi said the case is on track to go to trial on October 19.

Jones did say during the hearing that she might still split the trial into two phases if the defense persuades her to do so. New Line responded in a statement they were "encouraged" the judge would reconsider the motion at a later date and "may well" decide that the issues should be resolved by a judge, not jury.

"There is little significance to the fact that the court was merely not prepared to make this ruling now, before discovery has been completed," New Line added via statement. "What is important is that the court denied the motion 'without prejudice' -- meaning we can re-file it any time. We absolutely intend to re-file the motion at the appropriate time."

New Line was sued by The Tolkien Trust in February 2008, alleging the studio failed to pay at least $220 million to members of the trust. Plaintiffs assert that under a 1969 contract, the trust and other plaintiffs are entitled to 7.5 percent of gross receipts from the films and related products (minus certain costs).

-- By News Editor Annemarie Moody