Julianna Margulies Fires Back at Ex-Manager Lawsuit, Claims 'Inappropriate' Behavior (Exclusive)

Julianna Margulies SAG Awards - P 2012
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Julianna Margulies SAG Awards - P 2012

It might be trendy these days for Hollywood agents and managers to sue their celebrity clients, but don't expect these stars to just roll over.

Take Julianna Margulies, who was sued in July by D/F Management, whose principals include Steve Dontanville, her former agent who later became her manager. In the lawsuit, The Good Wife star was alleged to owe Dontanville's management firm at least $420,000 for unpaid commissions plus 10 percent of earnings from shows and product deals like the one where she became spokesperson for L'Oreal cosmetics that were already signed when the actress fired them.

ANALYSIS: Why Talent Reps Are Suing Their Clients

Now, Margulies has filed counterclaims.

In papers submitted in Los Angeles Superior Court this month, Margulies fires back at Dontanville.

Read the Complaint Here

"Dontanville demonstrated a general lack of initiative, attention, focus and commitment," says the counterclaims. "In addition, over time, Dontanville's behavior became inappropriate and the source of embarrassment, upset and concern for Margulies. As a result, Margulies grew increasingly dissatisfied with D/F's services."

The countersuit is a good example of how stars fight back against claims of owed money.

Yes, talent reps increasingly are going to court or into arbitration over commissions. Faced with their own financial pressures, managers and agents are making more aggressive collection efforts and aren't shy about touting in a courtroom how a star got to earn big paychecks.

"Dontanville carefully helped take Margulies from a promising young newcomer to an internationally renowned television star who earned millions of dollars form her work on the television show ER and other projects," said the original lawsuit.

Dontanville represented Margulies for many years -- first at ICM, then at William Morris, which he left in 2005 before joining D/F and helping it become Margulies' business management firm in 2009.

In the original lawsuit, one of Margulies' old e-mails is quoted, where she purportedly writes her new managers, “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be back in the right hands again.”

Well, in her counterclaims, Margulies has an answer for this.

She says Dontanville "abruptly retired" from William Morris because of "certain personal problems."

"In light of her longtime professional and personal relationship with Dontanville and given her belief that Dontanville's personal problems had been resolved, Margulies was initially excited about having D/F act as her manager," says Margulies' new court papers. "Unfortunately, Margulies' initial excitement about the relationship soon gave way to disappointment because D/F failed to provide the level and quality of services she had anticipated and which D/F had agreed to render."

Margulies says that after growing increasingly dissatisfied, she met with Dontanville on April 29, 2011, and broke the news that she was terminating her relationship with his firm.

Margulies, represented by Ryan Fife at Drinker Biddle & Reath, now is suing for breach of oral contract as she says Dontanville failed to provide her with any writing to memorialize the terms of his firm's engagement. The actress alleges that she has incurred damages in paying for services she did not receive. She is seeking an unspecified compensatory amount to make up for this.

"My client was forced to sue Ms. Margulies for her failure to pay commissions for a show they strongly recommended she accept, as she has publicly acknowledged," says Mathew Rosengart, the attorney representing D/F. "It is disappointing that rather than abiding by her obligations, Ms. Margulies has chosen the tact of filing a meritless and malicious claim based upon personal attacks. My client will vigorously prosecute its claim."

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner