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"Modern Family" stars file suit over contracts

From left, Sarah Hyland, Nolan Gould, Ariel Winter, Sofia Vergara, Ed O'Neill, Rico Rodriguez, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet of "Modern Family" pose in the press room after winning Outstanding Comedy Series during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 18, 2011, in Los Angeles,. Getty

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - "Modern Family" stars Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell have banded together and are suing to void their contracts to work on the hit comedy, arguing that the contracts are illegal under California law.

The suit, filed Tuesday, argues that their contracts with 20th Century Fox Television violate a California law prohibiting personal service contracts from extending for more than seven years.

Pictures: Sofia Vergara
Pictures: Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Pictures: Eric Stonestreet
Pictures: Julie Bowen
Pictures: Ty Burrell

The lawsuit asks a judge to rule the contracts are illegal and should be voided because they prohibit the actors from other work. The lawsuit states the contracts bind the actors to work on the series from February 2009 and June 30, 2016.

"'Modern Family' has been a breakout critical and financial success," the lawsuit states. "That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts."

A spokeswoman for 20th Century Fox said the studio had no immediate comment on the case.

The lawsuit also states contracts cap the raises the actors receive for each additional season of the show - Vergara's pay raise per season is capped at 5 percent, while the rest of her co-stars named in the suit are allowed to receive a maximum pay increase of 4 percent per year. Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell are also required to perform numerous unpaid publicity obligations.

The move comes as contract negotiations between the stars and 20th Century Fox hit an impasse, Deadline reports. A table read that was to take place Tuesday was reportedly canceled amid speculation that members of the cast would not show up.

The show, which airs on ABC, recently concluded its third season.

"Modern Family" has won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series the past two years in a row. Several of the stars, including Burrell, Bowen and Stonestreet have won individual Emmys for their work on the series.

The show was received 14 nominations last week for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, the most of any sitcom.

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