Nicollette Sheridan's 'Desperate Housewives' Lawsuit Revived by Appellate Court

A California court enters a new ruling in the biggest "will they, won't they" in entertainment law.
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Sheridan outside court in 2012

Nicollette Sheridan could get a second trial after all.

The actress' lawsuit over her firing from Desperate Housewives is a legal soap in itself: She sued ABC and Disney, producer Touchstone and creator Marc Cherry in 2010 claiming Cherry struck her in the head during an argument on set. Touchstone and ABC approved Cherry killing off her character in 2009 in retaliation for her complaints about the altercation, she claimed.

The case was downsized in pretrial proceedings, and in 2012 a closely watched trial ended with the jury deadlocked 8-4 in Sheridan's favor. The appeals court for California's 2nd District issued an order permitting Sheridan to file a new complaint against Touchstone for retaliation under the California Labor Code.

It's the new complaint that the appellate court has just returned to Los Angeles Superior Court for new proceedings and potentially a sequel (or maybe spinoff?) to the 2012 proceedings.

What happened in the interim?

In short, it's complicated. Touchstone fought the case arguing the Labor Code required Sheridan to "exhaust administrative remedies" (i.e. file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner) before suing.

The court disagreed, but by the time Touchstone filed for reconsideration, a decision in a completely different case (MacDonald v. State of California) found employees did have to seek administrative remedies first.

Then, the California Supreme Court overturned MacDonald. Sheridan filed a motion for reconsideration and for a new trial. The Los Angeles court denied the motion for a new trial, but improbably, granted the motion for reconsideration weeks later. Because of an earlier dismissal of the case on jurisdictional grounds, this failed and Sheridan appealed.

In overturning the dismissal, the appellate court focuses on amendments in 2013 to the Labor Code that specify “there is no requirement that an individual exhaust administrative remedies or procedures," though noting the code stated similarly prior to the amendments. "Exhaustion of the remedy provided by [the code] was not required, and the 2013 enactments simply clarified this point," writes judge Thomas Willhite.

The appellate court points out the cases Touchstone argued in their favor largely concerned employees whose contracts, not the Labor Code, required they seek administrative remedies.

Sheridan’s attorney Mark Baute tells The Hollywood Reporter a second trial "should occur in the next six months."

"Disney did a good job with thematics and cute surprises during the first trial. In the second trial, neither side really has much in the way of surprises left to play out, and the show is now off the air and is in syndication, which usually results in more candid testimony from certain witnesses," says Baute.

An ABC spokesperson declined comment.

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