|August 17||DH Lawsuit Gets Shot Down|
Nicollette Sheridan was not wrongfully fired from TV’s “Desperate Housewives,” an appeals court ruled Thursday, but the actress should be allowed to pursue claims that she was retaliated against for complaining that the show’s creator struck her.
A three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with attorneys for ABC and Touchstone Television that Sheridan left the show when her contract was not renewed after the show’s fifth season, and that barred the actress from receiving a new trial of her wrongful termination lawsuit.
“Sheridan cannot pursue a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy because, contrary to what she claims, she was not fired, discharged or terminated,” the court wrote in a 10-page ruling.
The court, however, ruled that Sheridan should be allowed to file an amended lawsuit claiming retaliation, although her damages would be limited to her salary losses.
Adam Levin, who represents ABC and Touchstone Television, praised the ruling. “The Court of Appeal correctly found that Ms. Sheridan was not terminated. Instead, her employment ended because Touchstone elected not to renew her contract after her character, Edie Britt, died on the show. Her last remaining claim for wrongful termination is gone, and while she may seek to add an OSHA claim, we believe we will prevail on that claim as well,” he said in a statement.
But Sheridan’s attorney Marc Baute is not giving up: “We will prosecute Touchstone to the fullest extent of the law under Labor Code Section 6310,” Baute said in a statement. Sheridan claimed in her initial lawsuit that her Housewives character Edie Britt was suddenly killed off in early 2009 and that she was fired from the show because of complaints the actress made over an alleged head-hitting incident on the series’ set with executive producer and series creator Marc Cherry on September 24, 2008.
|August 9||No Decision On Retrial Yet|
At a hearing today, a three-judge Court of Appeal panel consisting of Norman Epstein, Thomas Willhite Jr and Nora Manella heard arguments from Sheridan’s and ABC’s lawyers. At the end of the arguments the judges said that they will take the matter of a retrial and the submitted briefs from the lawyers under consideration. A decision could take up to three months or more, rendering the previously set Sept. 10 start date for a retrial void.
Since the end of the original trial, ABC has argued for a dismissal of the case, insisting that Sheridan was not wrongfully terminated from Desperate Housewives. “All of the evidence shows that Ms. Sheridan was not terminated but her employment came to a natural end when her contract was not renewed,” defense lawyer Adam Levin of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, representing ABC Studios and ABC Entertainment, said today.
Sheridan was in court, accompanied by one of her lawyers, Mark Baute of Baute Crochetiere & Wang. Judges Willhite and Manella repeatedly queried Baute about his client’s notion of termination. “Is it a termination when a contract is not renewed,” Manella asked. Baute responded by reiterating the alleged on-set head-hitting incident between Sheridan and Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry as the basis for what he called “Sheridan’s retaliatory firing for complaining about the incident.”
|June 23||DH Trial: Settlement Talks Ordered|
Judge Elizabeth Allen White of Los Angeles Superior Court vacated the retrial date after admitting to being confused by wording in a writ issued by the court of appeals which put a temporary stay on the retrial.
The writ prevented Sheridan’s team from going ahead with the wrongful termination claim, but allowed for Sheridan’s team to amend its complaint and make claim under California Labor Code 6310 (b), which protects employees from being terminated or threatened with termination if they make a complaint about workplace safety.
“Frankly, I find the language puzzling,” the judge said.
The judge also ordered attorneys for both sides to return to settlement talks to Judge Helen Bendix on July 20.
During Friday’s hearing, Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Baute, continued to try to make the case for a wrongful termination claim.
“To keep this simple, Ms. Sheridan was fired before her contract was up,” Baute told the court.
“Mr. Baute has argued this nine times,” Adam Levin, attorney for ABC, countered, adding, “The plaintiff is frankly ordering nonsense. The plaintiff is asking the court to violate the court of appeal.”
Judge White concluded, “I am going to let the court of appeal sort it out … I will do whatever the court of appeal asks me to do.”
In March the case ended in mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial had been set for Sept. 10, before Judge White vacated the date.
On May 31, an appeals court issued the temporary stay, affirming an appeal by ABC lawyers that argued that Sheridan did not have the right to sue for wrongful termination.
Baute told on Friday that he will focus on preserving the wrongful termination claim, despite the appeals court’s writ.
“The trial court recognizes, as did the Court of Appeal, that the Section 6310 (b) claim must go forward and the complaint amended to include that claim,” Baute told TheWrap after the hearing. “The trial court wishes to have the Court of Appeal resolve through the writ process whether the wrongful termination in violation of public policy will also go forward.”
Levin had no comment.
A court rules the actress’ key claim over her firing from ABC’s ‘Housewives’ likely should have been resolved in favor of Touchstone. Sheridan’s lawyer insists the Sept. retrial will go forward.
In a major setback for Nicollette Sheridan in her lawsuit against Desperate Housewives producer Touchstone Television, an appeals court has issued a ruling delaying indefinitely a planned September retrial and suggesting that the key claim in the case likely should have been resolved in favor of Touchstone, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
As you’ll recall, a Los Angeles jury deadlocked in March over whether the former Housewives actress was owed about $4 million for being improperly fired as retaliation for complaining after she was struck in the face by series creator Marc Cherry. (Cherry, originally a defendant, was dismissed from the case during trial.) The jury failed to reach a verdict, with eight of 12 jurors siding with Sheridan, so a retrial was set by Judge Elizabeth Allen White for Sept. 10.
Touchstone/ABC lawyers then appealed in an attempt to prevent a retrial, arguing that California law precludes wrongful termination lawsuits when an actress’ contract option is simply not exercised. That argument was made unsuccessfully several times during the litigation.
But now, in a surprising development, on Friday the California Court of Appeals issued an order agreeing with Touchstone and bumping the planned retrial off the calendar indefinitely. In a short “writ of mandate,” the appeals court overturned the trial judge’s denial of Touchstone’s motion for a directed verdict—essentially, that means the appeals court believes Touchstone should have won the major part of the case because a prior ruling in a case called Daly v. Exxon made clear that most employees whose options are not picked up can’t sue for wrongful termination.
The ruling is a big blow to Sheridan. The appeals court set an August 9 hearing date for the trial judge to show up and justify why the case should move forward to a retrial, but Superior Court judges rarely attempt to challenge appeals court rulings. The likely effect, therefore, will be that Judge White adheres to the appeals court mandate and issues some kind of directed verdict in favor of Touchstone on the wrongful termination claim.
Touchstone hasn’t completely won, however. The appeals court suggests Sheridan can reconfigure her case as a labor code violation under the OSHA law (Section 6310), which could lead to significant damages. Other appeals are possible. But a lawsuit that began as a $20 million bombshell when originally filed has now been brought to the brink of dismissal. Sheridan’s legal team led by Mark Baute will need to work some magic to bring it back.
“It is further ordered that the retrial currently set for Sept. 10 is hereby stayed pending further order of the court,” the ruling states.
Sheridan lawyer Baute tells THR that despite the appeals court’s indefinite stay, he is planning to fight to keep the retrial on track.
“The order reflects the court of appeals’ desire to have the September 10 trial focus on the Labor Code Section 6310 claim. The reference to amendment in the order is designed to ensure that happens and the September 10 trial date remains intact. This will all become clearer as the briefs are filed later this summer. It does not change the trial or the trial date, and the temporary stay is designed to clarify and resolve those issues before the September trial starts. It would be foolish for the media to believe that an order which expressly states that the Labor Code 6310 claim should be added means anything more than that, especially at this point. We will file our briefs and move forward accordingly.”
Lawyers for Touchstone have not responded to requests for comment.
|May 17||Touchstone Moves To Block Retrial|
Did you think you won’t hear about this until September? Yes, I was naive like that too. But Nicollette’s attorneys were back in court on Tuesday arguing that the actress should not be stopped from retrying her wrongful termination case against Touchstone Television.
After appearing every day in a Los Angeles courtroom in March, the former Desperate Housewives star’s first trial against Touchstone ended in a hung jury, with eight out of the 12 jurors siding in her favor. However, because the jury failed to reach a decision, Sheridan’s retrial is now set for Sept. 10.
But in documents obtained exclusively by E! News, Sheridan’s attorneys state their client was let go not because Touchstone failed to exercise a one-year option in her contract but because she complained about being allegedly struck in the head by showrunner Marc Cherry.
Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Baute, states in the brief that he demonstrated at trial a clear “nexus between Sheridan’s complaint and the decision by Cherry and Touchstone to terminate her” and that “Touchstone falsely claimed it decided to terminate Sheridan for creative, financial and performance reasons”—not because the actress made a protected complaint.
A judge is expected to rule on Friday whether Sheridan can proceed with her second trial against Touchstone.
|April 18||Re-trial Set For September 10|
And ladies and gentlemen, we have a new date.
After the jury was deadlocked in March, Judge Allen White set a new date for the re-trial. Initially being offered June 4, ABC/Disney’s attorney Adam Levine they couldn’t bring the witnesses they want because of the cycle of the entertainment industry, so Sheridan’s lawyers agreed on the September 10 date.
Sheridan’s attorneys had also asked for sanctions to ABC attorneys but that request was denied by the Judge in the hearing today. ABC also had a minor setback when their request for a direct verdict was also denied.
Levin argued that ABC had clearly shown there were discussions about killing off Sheridan’s character before the incident with Cherry. Baute called that a “bogus defense concocted out of thin air.”
The judge said a discussion of killing off a character is not the same as a decision, so that was not relevant.
The judge strongly suggested both sides meet and try to reach a settlement before the re-trial. However, after the court hearing Baute told reporters that ABC/Disney has said the company will never settle, and he does not see that changing.
Previous to the trial, scheduled to run through September 25, there will be a status conference on September 5.
|April 6||Nicollette Sheridan Lawyers Fight For Retrial|
Lawyers seeking a retrial for Nicollette Sheridan in her Desperate Housewives wrongful termination suit this week fired back against ABC Entertainment and Touchstone Television for asking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White to grant a verdict in ABC’s favor and dismissal of the actress’ claim for punitive damages instead of a retrial. The case ended in a mistrial last month when jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of Sheridan. In court papers filed this week, Sheridan’s lawyers contend Sheridan deserves a retrial and that her claim for damages is valid. Sheridan claimed in her lawsuit that her character was killed off in retaliation for her complaining that show creator Marc Cherry struck her in the head during production. Judge White threw out the battery claim against Cherry. Sheridan and her attorneys maintain that she was written out of the series after an internal investigation by the production company cleared Cherry of wrongdoing. “The record establishes a conscious disregard for Sheridan and reveals that Cherry and Touchstone sought to penalize her and deprive her of significant income because she had the audacity to complain about being struck by her boss while at work,” Sheridan’s court papers state. ABC contends that the record supports the network’s claim that the decision to kill off Sheridan’s character was made because the producers decided that “the character had run its creative course.” A hearing on the ABC Entertainment motion is scheduled April 13.
The 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) proudly announces the World Premiere of JEWTOPIA as its Opening Night film. The red carpet screening of JEWTOPIA will take place on Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 7:30pm at Edwards Big Newport (300 Newport Center Drive).
Inspired from the international smash hit play seen by over a million people, JEWTOPIA (2012, USA, 89 minutes) stars Ivan Sergei, Joel David Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jon Lovitz, Rita Wilson, Tom Arnold, Peter Stormare, Camryn Manheim, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Wendie Malick, Nicollette Sheridan, Phil Rosenthal, Christine Lakin, Hayes MacArthur and Lin Shaye. The story is about Christian O’Connell (Sergei) and Adam Lipschitz (Moore) — two childhood friends who reunite as adults to help each other land the women of their dreams. Chris wants to marry Allison (Hewitt), a Jewish girl, so that he’ll never have to make another decision for as long as he lives. Adam is on the verge of getting married to Hannah (Sigler), a woman he is not content with. When Chris enlists Adam’s help in pretending to be Jewish so that Allison will date him, cultures collide and chaos ensues!
“It’s been an incredible journey from what started as a little show in Los Angeles. I believe the film not only captures the outrageous comedy that made the stage play so popular, it also tells the universal story of cultures clashing and families getting in the way of finding true love. I’m thrilled to be having our world premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival,” stated director Bryan Fogel.
Tickets to the Opening Night screening and gala are $125 each and are available at www.NewportBeachFilmFest.com starting April 1st. Patrons can also purchase tickets to the Opening Night gala for $80 each. Guests must be at least 21 years old and cocktail attire is suggested.
|March 20||Honeymoon For One Screencaptures|
I have added to the gallery screencaptures of Honeymoon For One and one picture from set. As well as one still from Becker (thanks Dennis) and more images from an old photoshoot.
As you know, the Judge in the Nicollette Sheridan vs. ABC Entertainment trial declared it yesterday a mistrial after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict after 3 days of deliverations. They said to be locked 8-4 in favor of the actress since day 1 and no further statements could change that. Just yesterday Sheridan’s lawyers had asked the Judge to let the jury deliverate for a few more days.
E!Online has talked to attorney Travis Gemoets, who has faced just these types of scenarios, and he says Sheridan is sitting pretty no matter what happens next.
Despite the fact that she didn’t all-out win the first time around, her case still looks good. “We know that the jury was split 8 to 4 in favor of Nicollette,” which gives her confidence moving forward, if nothing else. Another bonus: Sheridan now knows all of the defense’s tricks—and the defense relied more on that element of surprise than Sheridan’s team did. “So she’s going to be in a pretty strong position,” Gemoets tells E!Online.
Even though Disney is known for not settling and defense attorney Adam Levin has said multiple times he’s sure they will prevail in a second trial, don’t be shocked if Sheridan never appears in a courtroom again. Her clear favor with her first jury may prove compelling enough for ABC to offer a generous settlement. “The jury count indicates that some money needs to be paid to Nicollette to make this go away,” Gemoets says.
After all the amends to the original $20 million suit, Nicollette was now seeking $5 million. So, Gemoets says, “I think you’re talking about a multimillion-dollar sum, something in the $2 million to $3.5 million range wouldn’t shock me.”
Jurors Beverly Crosby and Johnny Huynh, who talked to the press yesterday, both said the case came down to the credibility of the witnesses. “There were a lot of people the jurors found not credible,” said Crosby. Crosby also said she questioned how the investigation into Sheridan’s claim of abuse was handled by ABC. “In my estimation,” ABC’s inquiry “wasn’t handled correctly….I won’t say there was a cover up. That’s a strong word, but it wasn’t handled right,” she said. “I don’t think they were scripted,” said juror Johnny Huynh, referring to Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute’s claims that ABC Studios’ witnesses had synchronized their stories. “But it was more like, their story just didn’t match up for me. They were less credible, their demeanor and things like that.”
“The evidence shows she was struck, and whether it was a hit, slap, or wallop, that really doesn’t matter,” Crosby said. “I looked at the fact that she was touched without permission. And whatever the word for it is—hit, slap, or wallop—didn’t really matter.”
According to them, much of the jury’s debate centered on the testimony of George Perkins, a Housewives executive producer whom employees were told to call if they felt their rights had been violated. Perkins testified that when Cherry brought Sheridan back for the final episode of season five – weeks after she was told to clear out – it was not a creative necessity but rather to embarrass her in the hope that she would not show up and breach her contract. That testimony reinforced Sheridan’s message that she had been a victim of retaliation when her character was written out of the show. Retaliation, said Crosby, is “very subtle. It’s something that may be hard to prove.”