A judge today scheduled a Sept. 10 retrial in Nicollette Sheridan's wrongful termination lawsuit against the producers of "Desperate Housewives," but urged both sides to settle the case before then.
"I strongly urge you to continue settlement discussions," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White told lawyers.
Sheridan did not attend the hearing.
Rather than go through a retrial, attorneys for Touchstone Television Productions had asked White to enter a judgment in their clients' favor in response to the lawsuit brought by the former "Desperate Housewives" cast member.
The defense also asked the judge to dismiss Sheridan's claim for punitive damages.
White denied both motions.
Sheridan, 48, claims that her Edie Britt character was killed off the ABC series after she complained that show creator Marc Cherry smacked her on the head during a rehearsal. The actress claimed Cherry hit her while she was asking about a line that had been eliminated from the script.
White had earlier dismissed a battery claim Sheridan made against Cherry, leaving jurors only the decision of whether the actress had been fired inappropriately.
Cherry and Touchstone attorneys called the actress' argument "desperate." Cherry also denied hitting Sheridan hard, saying he tapped her on the head on Sept. 24, 2008, to give her direction about what he wanted in the scene.
White declared a mistrial March 19 after jurors said they were deadlocked 8-4 in favor of Sheridan. In civil court, nine jurors must agree on a verdict.
In recommending that both sides settle, White warned Touchstone lawyer Adam Levin not to be "overly confident" as a result of the deadlock in the first case.
In his motion, Levin argued that Sheridan was not fired and that allowing a jury to decide the merits of a decision to write a character out of a show infringes on their client's First Amendment rights.
"I cannot overstate the chill this would have on producers," Levin told the judge today.
White, however, rejected the argument, saying that the majority of jurors were not "trying to inhibit the creation of content."
In the question of punitive damages, Mark Baute, Sheridan's attorney, said such sanctions are "really needed here."
In setting the retrial date, Levin argued for moving the start from June to September because "this is the entertainment industry and everyone's out of town" during the summer months.
White agreed, adding that the case would probably last about two weeks.
The Touchstone attorney said that he would be calling witnesses who were not part of the first trial.
See Patch's interviews with Desperate Housewives cast members here: