3:52pm PT by Alex Ben Block
Nicollette Sheridan Seeks to Revive 'Desperate Housewives' Legal Case
Actress Nicollette Sheridan’s legal battle alleging that her termination from the ABC show Desperate Housewives was in retaliation for her complaints about working conditions may not be over after all, despite a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s order dismissing the case on Nov. 5 without leave to amend or be reconsidered.
On Nov. 27, Sheridan’s lawyers filed a new motion with Judge Michael L. Stern asking for reconsideration based on two new laws recently passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and the “depublishing” of a court case that was used as precedent when the Nov. 5 ruling was made.
Sheridan’s attorneys Mark Baute and David Crochetiere are asking the court to set a new trial in the case, which at one time was scheduled to take place this week. A hearing has been set on the motion for Jan. 29, 2014.
“Recent developments now require the court’s November 5 order be reconsidered,” states the new motion.
Sheridan was one of the stars on Desperate Housewives during its first five seasons on the air. She sued in 2010, charging she was wrongfully terminated from the series after she got into an altercation with executive producer Marc Cherry, who she says struck her as they argued during a rehearsal.
The case went before a jury in February and March 2012 after a number of the allegations were dropped and Cherry was dismissed from the case, leaving Touchstone TV as the only defendant. Touchstone is a division of the Walt Disney Company.
The jury at that time deadlocked 8 to 4 in favor of Sheridan, but that was not enough for her to win the civil suit. Later, an appeals court ruled Touchstone did not wrongfully terminate Sheridan, but had simply not renewed her contract.
Sheridan was permitted to file a new action under the state Labor Code, charging that Touchstone retaliated against her for complaining about unsafe working conditions.
After other legal actions, on Nov. 5 the court ruled Sheridan had not filed the labor action in the permitted time because she had filed the civil suit instead. That was when the case was dismissed.
Sheridan’s lawyers say they were unaware at that time the state legislature was passing a Senate bill and an Assembly bill designed to clarify the rights of a worker under the labor law, allowing them to file a labor action at a later time. “An individual is not required to exhaust administrative remedies or procedures in order to bring a civil action,” states the legislation.
Although that law doesn’t go into effect until 2014, Sheridan’s lawyers argue that the intent is clear – the legislature isn’t passing new rules but simply clarifying how existing rules should be interpreted.
The suit also says that on Nov. 25, a decision in a prior case that was key to the court’s Nov. 5 decision was reversed by the state Supreme Court, and that decision, known as The MacDonald Case, was depublished, meaning it no longer can be used as a precedent in any other legal case.
“The clarification by the legislature changed the viability of the MacDonald court’s analysis,” says the new motion, “and the case has now been depublished and should be deemed superseded by statute.”
There was no immediate comment in response from Touchstone Television’s attorneys Adam Levin and Aaron Wais.