Rob Lowe's Preemptive Strike Tactic Follows Bill O'Reilly's LeadFri Apr 18, 2008 @ 01:30PM PST
Posted by Matthew Heller
Nanny-troubled Rob Lowe is the latest celebrity to employ the so-called Bill O'Reilly defense by filing a preemptive extortion suit. But chances are that, just like O'Reilly's battle with a Fox News producer, it will be settled quietly and fairly expeditiously.
O'Reilly carved an entertainment litigation niche of sorts by preemptively suing Andrea Mackris in October 2004. Mackris, he alleged in a complaint as luridly detailed as Lowe's against nanny Jessica Gibson, had threatened to sue him for sexual harassment as part of a $60 million extortion scheme.
The case, of course, got massive publicity but less than a month later, the parties settled, with O'Reilly dropping his suit and Mackris dropping the sexual harassment suit she filed just hours after his preemptive strike.
Other celebrities have followed a similar template, including Burt Reynolds, who sued his ex-girlfriend for attempted extortion in November 2004 -- one day before she filed a palimony suit against him. The dueling lawsuits were settled in June 2005 before the parties even got into discovery.
For his part, Lowe beat Gibson to the courthouse by filing a complaint April 7 which alleges, among other things, that she threatened to initiate litigation against him and his wife if they did not pay her $1.5 million -- something of a bargain compared to the alleged O'Reilly extortion. Gibson paused long enough to hire Gloria Allred as her attorney before countersuing for sexual abuse and harassment on April 14 and going on the "Today" show to publicize her side of the story.
Some legal experts have theorized that preemptive extortion suits give celebrities an advantage in settlement negotiations. Without the leverage of threatening the celebrity with bad publicity, so the theory goes, the extortion suit defendant has to settle for a lesser amount.