Aaron Spelling Estate Loses Defamation Appeal Against Lawyer Who Circulated Harrassment Survey

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Aaron Spelling Estate Loses Defamation Appeal Against Lawyer Who Circulated Harrassment Survey

Wed Feb 27, 2008 @ 11:32AM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Spelling_spotlight_20060620 A California Appeals Court has ruled that the estate of late producer Aaron Spelling can't proceed with a defamation suit against a lawyer who circulated a questionnaire around Hollywood asking famous actresses whether Spelling sexually harassed them in his career. Here's the unpublished decision.

Spelling's wife Candy hired an around-the-clock nurse, Charlene Richards, to take care of her ailing husband. During Richards' care, Aaron Spelling allegedly "bragged about many past sexual relations with women actors seeking work" and said that Richards was the only one to resist his come-ons. Candy Spelling fired Richards, and the nurse hired lawyer Don Sessions of Sessions & Kimbal to represent her in a sexual harassment suit.

The two sides went into mediation, and Sessions began for preparing litigation. He sent a survey to 600 actresses, including Heather Locklear, Teri Hatcher, and Farah Fawcett, calling for input on past sexual harassment behavior by Spelling. The newspaper The Globe got wind of this, and on December 5, 2005, published an article about the survey called “Sex Scandal Rocks Hollywood.” 

After Spelling died, the estate, led by Candy, sued Sessions for defamation. A district court dismissed the suit and awarded anti-SLAPP damages against the Spelling state.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's ruling, determining that Spelling's estate could neither show that Sessions’ statements were false, nor that Sessions acted with malice in making them.

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