HOUSTON (Reuters) - The mother of Anna Nicole Smith has sued the deceased television star's lawyer and several media outlets including celebrity Web site TMZ.com, claiming she was defamed.
Virgie Arthur said in a lawsuit filed in Texas state court on Monday that Smith's lawyer and companion Howard K. Stern and others spread a false story that she was the mother of her stepbrother's child in a bid to ruin her reputation.
"Their goal was simple and straightforward -- to 'destroy' anyone that was opposed to Howard K. Stern or his interest," the lawsuit said.
At issue is a story that appeared on TMZ.com titled "Virgie Has Son With Step-Brother," according to court papers.
Harvey Levin, who is managing editor of TMZ, is also named in the lawsuit. Representatives for Stern and TMZ were not immediately available to comment on the allegations.
Anna Nicole Smith died at age 39 of an accidental prescription drug overdose in Florida in February 2007.
The death of the former pin-up model and reality television star sparked a legal battle between Arthur and Smith's companions, including Stern and photographer Larry Birkhead, both over her remains and custody of her infant daughter, Dannielynn.
Arthur, who lives in Texas, lost those court fights.
Birkhead, following tests that showed he was her father, was awarded custody of Dannielynn, who as Smith's sole heir could inherit a multimillion-dollar fortune.
That depends on the outcome of a continuing legal battle over the will of oil tycooon Howard Marshall. Smith married Marshall when she was 26 and he was 89, and he died 14 months later with a fortune estimated at $1.6 billion dollars.
Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston