Judge admits confusion over court of appeals writ in Nicollette Sheridan's case against her former bosses
Nicollette Sheridan's ongoing legal battle with her former "Desperate Housewives" bosses hit a stumbling block on Friday, as a judge vacated the scheduled September retrial date and ordered both sides to enter settlement talks with a different judge.
Judge Elizabeth Allen White of Los Angeles Superior Court vacated the retrial date after admitting to being confused by wording in a writ issued by the court of appeals which put a temporary stay on the retrial.
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The writ prevented Sheridan's team from going ahead with the wrongful termination claim, but allowed for Sheridan's team to amend its complaint and make 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.
"Frankly, I find the language puzzling," the judge said.
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The judge also ordered attorneys for both sides to return to settlement talks to Judge Helen Bendix on July 20.
During Friday's hearing, Sheridan's attorney, Mark Baute, continued to try to make the case for a wrongful termination claim.
"To keep this simple, Ms. Sheridan was fired before her contract was up," Baute told the court.
"Mr. Baute has argued this nine times," Adam Levin, attorney for ABC, countered, adding, "The plaintiff is frankly ordering nonsense. The plaintiff is asking the court to violate the court of appeal."
Judge White concluded, "I am going to let the court of appeal sort it out … I will do whatever the court of appeal asks me to do."
Sheridan originally sued Touchstone and ABC for $20 million for being improperly fired after she said she was slapped by Marc 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.
In March the case ended in mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial had been set for Sept. 10, before Judge White vacated the date.
On May 31, an appeals court issued the temporary stay, affirming an appeal by ABC lawyers that argued that Sheridan did not have the right to sue for wrongful termination.
Baute told TheWrap on Friday that he will focus on preserving the wrongful termination claim, despite the appeals court's writ.
"The trial court recognizes, as did the Court of Appeal, that the Section 6310 (b) claim must go forward and the complaint amended to include that claim," Baute told TheWrap after the hearing. "The trial court wishes to have the Court of Appeal resolve through the writ process whether the wrongful termination in violation of public policy will also go forward."
Levin had no comment for TheWrap.