LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A judge handling litigation between actress Nicollette Sheridan and Touchstone Television Productions over her departure from the hit show asked today for further briefing before ruling on a Touchstone motion to trim an amended lawsuit.
Touchstone lawyers say the 49-year-old actress didn’t file paperwork with the proper agency before suing and that her request for punitive damages should be tossed.
Sheridan’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit stems from her assertion that show creator Marc Cherry assaulted her and later wrote her out of the show.
Judge Michael Stern said he wants to know if the law allows a single incident such as that cited by Sheridan’s lawyers to be sufficient. He postponed a decision until April 22.
An amended complaint filed on Sheridan’s behalf reflects a decision handed down Aug. 16 by a three-member panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
The justices said the actress cannot have a retrial of her wrongful termination claim, which was part of her original suit, filed in April 2010. However, they said Sheridan could revise her complaint and make a claim under a section of the state Labor Code protecting employees from being terminated or threatened with termination if they make a complaint about workplace safety.
Prior to filing a lawsuit, Sheridan should have filed a complaint with the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement instead of the claim she lodged instead with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, according to court papers filed last Thursday by Touchstone lawyers.
“The DFEH has no authority to investigate and resolve complaints relating to workplace safety,” the Touchstone court papers state.
The Touchstone lawyers further maintain Sheridan has no right to seek punitive damages or attorneys’ fees, saying she is only entitled under the Labor Code section she is suing under to reinstatement and reimbursement of lost wages and work benefits.
The defense attorneys also maintain in their court papers that Sheridan should not be allowed to keep language in her complaint stating that she was “terminated,” “fired,” or “discharged” by Touchstone. They say she was never fired.
“Instead, during Season No. 5, Touchstone informed her that it had decided not to exercise its option to hire her for Season 6,” the Touchstone lawyers’ court papers state.
Touchstone attorneys also maintain in their court papers that Sheridan’s company, Starlike Enterprises Inc., should be dismissed as a plaintiff, saying it lacks the right to sue and has failed to state a cause of action against Touchstone.
The jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of Sheridan on the wrongful termination claim during the first trial, which ended last March. But the appellate panel found that Judge Elizabeth Allen White should have granted Touchstone’s motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the cause of action.
Defense attorneys filed a motion to remove White from presiding over the retrial and the case was randomly assigned to Stern.
During oral arguments last Aug. 9 before the appellate court justices, Touchstone attorney Adam Levin argued that all of the evidence showed that Sheridan’s employment on “Desperate Housewives” came to an end naturally with the end of her contract.
The actress’ lawyer, Mark Baute, countered that Sheridan was fired in retaliation by Cherry. Sheridan testified that Cherry hit her “upside the head” in September 2008 when she questioned him about the elimination of a line from a scene.
Baute noted that Sheridan was the only actor out of the main cast not to be brought back for the next season and had recently complained of being slapped by Cherry.
Cherry maintained that he was trying to give Sheridan instructions for filming a scene and only tapped her. He also said the decision to kill off her character, Edie Britt, was made months before the incident.
The show’s eight-year run ended in May 2012.
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