At a hearing today, a three-judge Court of Appeal panel consisting of Norman Epstein, Thomas Willhite Jr and Nora Manella heard arguments from Sheridan’s and ABC’s lawyers. At the end of the arguments the judges said that they will take the matter of a retrial and the submitted briefs from the lawyers under consideration. A decision could take up to three months or more, rendering the previously set Sept. 10 start date for a retrial void.
Since the end of the original trial, ABC has argued for a dismissal of the case, insisting that Sheridan was not wrongfully terminated from Desperate Housewives. “All of the evidence shows that Ms. Sheridan was not terminated but her employment came to a natural end when her contract was not renewed,” defense lawyer Adam Levin of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, representing ABC Studios and ABC Entertainment, said today.
Sheridan was in court, accompanied by one of her lawyers, Mark Baute of Baute Crochetiere & Maloney. Judges Willhite and Manella repeatedly queried Baute about his client’s notion of termination. “Is it a termination when a contract is not renewed,” Manella asked. Baute responded by reiterating the alleged on-set head-hitting incident between Sheridan and Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry as the basis for what he called “Sheridan’s retaliatory firing for complaining about the incident.”
The September 10 start date for a retrial of Sheridan’s wrongful termination suit against ABC Studios and ABC Entertainment was stayed in early June by the California Court of Appeals pending today’s hearing. In three weeks that truly were like something off a late night soap, the former Desperate Housewives star’s first trial started on February 29 and was declared a mistrial on March 19 after the jury declared itself deadlocked. Sheridan, who was in court most days, claimed in her initial lawsuit that her Housewives character Edie Britt was suddenly killed off in early 2009 and that she was fired from the show because of complaints the actress made over an alleged head-hitting incident on the series’ set with executive producer and series creator Marc Cherry on September 24, 2008. Cherry and ABC always insisted the departure of the character and the actress had been decided months before the hitting incident, which the producer has characterized as a light “tap.” Former ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson and former ABC Studios boss Mark Pedowitz were among the witnesses called who confirmed Cherry’s story. Cherry ceased to be a defendant when midway through the first trial, Judge White threw out the battery claim Sheridan had against the producer. Desperate Housewives itself came to an end just two months after the trial. The show wrapped up its eight-season run on May 13.