A judge urged attorneys to try to settle Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination lawsuit over her ouster from “Desperate Housewives” on Monday after limiting damages the actress may recoup if she wins at trial.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White ruled that Sheridan can seek damages for only one year’s pay on the show, not for the entire length of the series. The show is entering its eighth and final season.
Sheridan’s character, Edie Britt, was killed off in the fifth season. Attorneys for the show claim it was a creative decision, but the actress says she was wrongfully fired for complaining that “Housewives” creator and executive producer Marc Cherry struck her during a fight in September 2008.
White has pared down the case since Sheridan sued ABC, the network that airs “Housewives,” and Cherry in 2010. The judge previously threw out Sheridan’s harassment claims against Cherry, and ruled Monday that the actress cannot make reference to his alleged rude behavior toward others.
Her attorney, Patrick Maloney, argued jurors should be allowed to consider whether Sheridan was entitled to wages for at least two seasons since she had options to return to the show for those years. White said the show’s producers had discretion to eliminate Sheridan’s character and there was no case law that would entitle the actress to seek payment beyond the sixth season.
If Sheridan wins, she may be entitled to punitive damages. But her actual damages would be limited to the roughly $980,000 she would have earned during Season 6 had she not been written off the show.
A jury will consider only Sheridan’s battery and wrongful termination claims at trial.
“You’re going to spend a lot of money on this case,” White told attorneys, who have previously said they would not settle the case.
A trial is scheduled to begin in October.
“Desperate Housewives,” a glossy primetime soap opera with an ensemble cast including Terri Hatcher and Eva Longoria, made a pop-culture and ratings splash when it premiered in 2004 but has seen its audience dwindle.