ABC ramps up offensive against actress Sheridan

Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:51am EDT
 
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By Matthew Belloni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - ABC is going on the offensive against fired "Desperate Housewives" co-star Nicollette Sheridan, who made worldwide headlines in April by filing a $20 million lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, assault and battery, and discrimination.

The network has hired a big-time litigator, and taken the first steps toward forcing Sheridan and her reps to turn over private documents in connection with her lawsuit.

It hired Adam Levin, an employment litigation specialist who successfully defended Warner Bros. Television in a high-profile harassment claim filed by a writers' assistant on "Friends." Levin has hit the ground running, serving requests for documents and detailed information on Sheridan and seeking to take her videotaped deposition as soon as possible, perhaps as early as August.

"We intend to delve into the merits of her claims, all of which we strenuously dispute," Levin told The Hollywood Reporter. Sheridan's lawyers did not return calls.

Sheridan's suit, which also names "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry, claims he struck her on the set and engaged in a pattern of abusive behavior that caused her emotional distress and resulted in her being fired from the hit show due to age and sex discrimination. ABC denied the allegations at the time.

Rather than quietly settle the case, ABC is now choosing to fight it head on. Levin is also seeking documents and information from agents at Innovative Artists and Don Buchwald & Associates, as well as publicity house BWR. Other subpoenas could be on the way.

Sheridan's claims for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress could put her mental and physical condition at issue in the litigation, meaning that ABC could go after certain private medical records if they pertain to her alleged injuries. That's a common tactic in high-stakes cases, forcing plaintiffs to essentially prove their pain.

Sheridan's responses to the requests for documents and information are due in July, although deadlines are typically extended in complex cases. The actress recently refiled her lawsuit with additional allegations, which gives ABC and Cherry until the end of June to file a formal response.

 
<p>Actress Nicolette Sheridan arrives at the 15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California January 25, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>