EDITORIAL: A Legal Minute: A little bit of the legal side of the biz you can read in a minute.
Desperate For Justice
Back in the early 2000’s, something was missing from television. “Reality” television was giving us a series of new hits from Survivor to American Idol. But, it seemed that sitcoms and drama were on a steady decline from the 90’s infusion of creativity. Sure, procedural dramas were still new, but they could only provide so much escape. At this point there was room for something new. There was room for a solid new drama on television that spoke to middle class suburbia. Stories about people just above our station, but so troubled that we did not want to be “quite” like them. Enter Marc Cherry, former writer on the Golden Girls, and Hollywood scribe attempting to launch a brand new show, about upper middle class, suburban housewives.
After being rejected by a host of television networks, in 2004, a new show that harkened back to the 70’s and 80’s network primetime soaps emerged, Desperate Housewives. I vividly remember watching the first episode to get a look at Teri Hatcher, who I had not seen since Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman. And lo and behold, I was introduced to a host of great looking middle-aged actresses and fell in love with the blonde bombshell on the block, Edie Britt. Edie was most often the best of the characters on Wisteria Lane. She was somewhat evil, manipulative, and willing to use her assets to get what she wanted. That makes for good television, and Edie Britt, was a pleasure to watch for five seasons.
The actress who played Edie Britt was none other than Nicolette Sheridan, a model and actress who was a hit in the 80’s, and has a huge career resurrection thanks to Desperate Housewives. For five seasons things were great, but Sheridan ran into a problem in 2009, when a run in with the show creator, Marc Cherry, gave Ms. Sheridan cause to believe that Cherry retaliated by terminating her contract on the show. Seeing her character get killed off on the show was a shock to many fans, but even more of a shock to Ms. Sheridan herself.
Thus, in 2010, Nicolette Sheridan filed a lawsuit against ABC, Touchstone and Marc Cherry claiming her being killed off on the show was in retaliation for a fight she had on set with Mr. Cherry. Ever since then the legal battle over whether Ms. Sheridan was fired wrongfully has made the papers pretty frequently. Earlier this year, the original lawsuit made headlines when the jury could not come to a verdict, leading to a mistrial and the ability for a new lawsuit to be filed. After that trial, while Sheridan was preparing to file a new trial, the appeals court stepped in to knock out a crucial piece of her suit, that she was wrongfully terminated. The court stated that Sheridan should have filed the case under the California Labor Code. Naturally since this would terminate a major claim, Sheridan appealed to the California Supreme Court, but this week, unfortunately for Sheridan, the Court is refusing to hear her appeal and agreed with the appeals court that Sheridan needs to re-file under the California Labor Code.
So now it remains to be seen how things will turn out the next go around. Sheridan’s original case ended in a mistrial 8-4. Sheridan only needed one more juror to win. Thus, if she needs to re-file under a new cause of action, it may change the whole case dynamic. Thankfully for her, the California Labor Code is pretty protective of employees, but unfortunately, her case has probably gotten weaker.
Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York and Illinois. He is a partner at Gonzalez & Mosier Law PLLC. His practice specializes in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property rights. In his spare time he enjoys watching television and films, and writing about it. Follow him on Twitter @showbizattorney, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicollette Sheridan on Desperate Housewives:
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