Monday, March 19, 2012

Nicollette Sheridan

Judge declares mistrial in 'Desperate Housewives' lawsuit

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A judge declared a mistrial Monday in actress Nicollette Sheridan's wrongful termination lawsuit against "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry and ABC.

The jury told the judge they were deadlocked at 8-4, in favor of the actress, after three days of deliberations. They needed nine jurors to agree on a verdict.

Sheridan sued, claiming her character was killed off -- and her acting job eliminated -- in retaliation for her complaining that Cherry hit her during a rehearsal for the ABC comedy.

Lawyers for Cherry and ABC's Touchstone Television argued the demise of her character was a creative decision unrelated to the workplace complaint.

One juror who voted for Sheridan's case said afterward that the defense story "just didn't hold water for me."

Beverly Crosby, a retired elementary school principal, said her decision to find the studio liable was based on her doubts about the credibility of several defense witnesses, which included high-level ABC executives.

"There were a lot of people that some of the jurors found not too credible," Crosby said.

Juror Johnny Huynh, who also voted for Sheridan's side, said it seemed to him that ABC executives scripted their stories "just a little bit."

"I don't say they was scripted," Huyhn said. "It's more like the story don't match for me."

Sheridan lawyer Mark Baute said while there was no victory, the jury's 8-4 vote did send a message to ABC and parent company Disney.

"They had 10 witnesses tell their little scripted story, with no documents, and eight jurors looked at their best, their presidents, and said, 'No, I'm not buying it, I'm not buying what you're selling, Mr. President,' " Baute said.

Lawyers will now prepare for a retrial, since an out-of-court settlement is not expected, he said.

"My view is that Disney is the unhappiest place on Earth, so why would there ever be a settlement offer?" Baute said.

ABC lawyer Adam Levin said the retrial will be "far more narrow than the previous case" since the judge tossed out Sheridan's battery complaint, leaving only the wrongful termination issue against the studio. In fact, Cherry is no longer a defendant, he said.

The jury of nine women and three men began deliberating on Wednesday but told the judge Monday morning they were hopelessly deadlocked.

Sheridan was asking for $5.7 million in damages from ABC and Cherry, although the actress was paid $4 million in her last year of work and is still earning royalties from her vested interest in the hit series.

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