Attorney for ousted "Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan attempts to make case for wrongful termination claim
Nicollette Sheridan's drawn-out legal battle with her former "Desperate Housewives" bosses began another chapter Thursday, as her attorney attempted to make the case in a Los Angeles courtroom that the actress was wrongfully terminated.
Sheridan, her attorney Mark Baute, and ABC/Touchstone attorney Adam Levin appeared before judges Nora Manella, Norman Epstein and Thomas Willhite Jr. at the Court of Appeals, 2nd Appellate District in Los Angeles to plead their sides of the case. The legal saga began in 2010 with a $20 million lawsuit filed by Sheridan. That action ended in a mistrial in March, 2012.
During Thursday's hearing, Levin argued that all of the evidence showed that Sheridan's employment on "Desperate Housewives" came to an end naturally with the end of her contract, and that she wasn't terminated.
Baute, meanwhile, countered that Sheridan was fired mid-season, mid-contract as an act of retaliation by "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry. Baute noted that she was the only actor out of the main cast not to be renewed for the series, and she had recently complained of being slapped by Cherry.
He also claimed that it was unprecedented in television history for a character to be terminated mid-season, though Judge Manella said that point was irrelevant.
Judge Willhite questioned how Sheridan's departure could be considered a wrongful termination if her contract contained an option to renew.
Baute told the court, "We want reality to govern the outcome of this," adding that "Desperate Housewives" production company Touchstone is trying to characterize Sheridan's departure as "a routine non-renewal as opposed to retaliatory termination."
Sheridan originally sued Touchstone and ABC for $20 million for being improperly fired after she said she was slapped by Cherry in a dispute. Cherry countered that he was merely attempting to give Sheridan stage direction, and that the decision to kill off her character, Edie Britt, was made months before the incident.
A retrial in the case had been scheduled for Sept. 10, before Judge Elizabeth Allen White of Los Angeles Superior Court vacated the date. White wanted the appeals court to clarify language in a writ it had issued, preventing Sheridan's legal team from pursuing its wrongful termination claim. White said that she found language in the writ "puzzling."
The appeals court did say that Sheridan could amend her complaint and make a claim under California Labor Code 6310 (b), which protects employees from being terminated or threatened with termination if they make a complaint about workplace safety.
"We are optimistic that the court of appeal will recognize the validity of the wrongful termination claim," Baute told TheWrap on Thursday.
Levin had no comment for TheWrap.