'Desperate Housewives' actress suffers court setback

LOS ANGELES, March 13 Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:40pm EDT

LOS ANGELES, March 13 (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday dismissed former "Desperate Housewives" cast member Nicollette Sheridan's battery complaint against the hit TV show's creator, Marc Cherry, dealing the actress a setback in her wrongful termination suit.

The decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth White came as the nearly two week trial approached closing arguments before a jury.

The case brought by Sheridan, an actress in the hit ABC comedy "Desperate Housewives" from 2004 to 2009, is unique in shedding public light on the kind of behind-the-scenes Hollywood disputes that often are resolved in private.

Sheridan accused Cherry of smacking her on the head during a 2008 rehearsal, and she contends she was fired and her character killed off after she complained about the contact.

Cherry has said he only tapped Sheridan to instruct her about a scene and that the death of her character, sexy Edie Britt who had slept with most men in the neighborhood, was planned long before the incident.

Judge White sided with Cherry in dismissing Sheridan's battery complaint but let stand the wrongful termination suit against Touchstone Television Productions, the studio behind "Desperate Housewives" and ABC. Both are unit of The Walt Disney Co.

"I'm sure that she and her attorneys are very unhappy today. This is a big setback for them," said attorney Lisa Bloom, whose past clients include Lindsay Lohan's father. She is not involved with the trial but has been monitoring it.

Bloom said jurors are likely to be "sophisticated enough" to understand the judge has thrown out part of Sheridan's case. "That could really be a problem for her," Bloom added.

Outside the courtroom, Cherry told show business website TheWrap, "Obviously I am thrilled by the judge's decision, but I am going to withhold further commentary until this matter is resolved completely."

Sheridan, 48, who apart from "Desperate Housewives" has appeared in such shows as "Knots Landing," testified earlier in the trial that she and Cherry were in a tense discussion about dialogue when he hit on her. "It was a nice wallop," she said.

Cherry has testified that he did not choose to kill off the actress' character because of her accusation that he had struck her, but because there were no longer any more male characters with whom Edie Britt could have a fling.

Bloom said the Sheridan trial is a rarity for Hollywood.

"It's extremely unusual for an actor to bring a claim against her employer, it's almost unheard of because they know it will be very difficult for them to work again," Bloom said.

The trial has featured a number of show-stopping moments. Last week, an executive producer spoiled a plotline when he testified that an on-screen flame of the main character in the show, would be killed off. That episode aired on Sunday. (Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)