Carrie Fisher Faces Trial in Heroin-Related Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Carrie Fisher - Getty - H 2016
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The actress' attempt to be removed from a complicated suit over the death of a 21-year-old woman who lived in Fisher's guesthouse is denied, as a judge rules she did not "meet her burden to establish that she cannot be found responsible."

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher has failed in her effort to escape a complex legal case over the fatal heroin overdose of a 21-year-old woman who lived in her guesthouse two months before her death.

A motion by Fisher to be removed from a wrongful death lawsuit, which centers on the 2010 death of Amy Breliant, was denied Oct. 24 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laura A. Matz. The ruling, a copy of which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, means that Fisher will remain a defendant in the case alongside Warren Boyd, who was overseeing the rehab network that Breliant was under the care of when she died.

“Fisher has failed to meet her burden to establish that she cannot be found responsible, as a matter of law, for the conduct of Boyd, a joint venturer,” reads Matz’s order.

According to the original complaint, filed in 2013 by Breliant’s family, Fisher — the actress and writer known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise — allowed the guesthouse on her Los Angeles property to be used by Boyd, who maintained a network of sober-living homes. According to that court document, Breliant had been assigned in June 2010 to stay at Fisher’s home for “rehabilitation” purposes. In return for offering up her home, Fisher was paid “a share of Boyd's profit or revenue, equal to cash payments of $10,000, weekly,” alleges the complaint. Those payments to Fisher, the original filing claims, are evidence that Fisher effectively was in a joint venture with Boyd.

The family's court papers "would support a reasonable inference that defendant engaged in contact with respect to taking or obtaining funds or assisting in taking or obtaining funds from the dependent adult with intent to defraud," Matz writes in the court order.

Fisher’s attorney, Vicki Greco, declined to comment on the ruling.

When reached for comment, Fisher offered the following statement: "I feel great compassion for any parent’s loss of their child in an untimely death. I have a daughter. To lose a child is an unimaginable tragedy and the grief must be devastating. Unfortunately, I am not able to talk about the details of this case because it is ongoing."

The attorney for Breliant's family, Stephen G. Larson, a partner at the firm Larson O’Brien, offered a comment as well. “We are very pleased with the court’s ruling and look forward to being able to hold those people that we believe are responsible for Amy’s tragic death at the trial in this matter,” said Larson. “As alleged in our complaint, Warren Boyd used Carrie Fisher's celebrity status as one of the instruments by which he conducted his fraudulent drug rehabilitation practice that we believe led to Amy’s death.”

The case is officially known as Breliant v. Marmer, and the plaintiff is Amy’s mother, Gianna Breliant. Gianna alleges that when she sought help from Boyd for her daughter’s heroin addiction, she was subjected to costly, ineffective and ultimately illegal treatment by Boyd. Boyd repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

In September 2010, Amy Breliant died of an overdose while housed at another sober-living home run by Boyd, according to the filings. At the time of her death, the family asserts they had paid Boyd about $222,000 for a range of services they were told included writing and acting coaches.

According to his website, Boyd was a former addict who reinvented himself as an interventionist and rehabilitation expert. He was the inspiration for and co-executive producer of the A&E televisions series The Cleaner, which was about a recovering addict who turns to helping others and starred Benjamin Bratt.

The trial is expected to start in May.