Valerie Harper was wrongfully fired as star of the former NBC series "Valerie" and she and Lorimar Productions never had an "amicable parting" as Lorimar contended, Harper's lawyer told a jury Friday.
Barry Langberg, Harper's lawyer, said in closing arguments at Lori-mar's breach-of-contract trial against her and her husband-producer Tony Cacciotti, that they were fired because of Harper's "pain in the neck demands for consultation and her big salary."Lorimar sued Harper for $70 million, which they have reduced to $313,000, contending Harper walked off the show and breached her contract through her "disruptive" behavior.
Harper and Cacciotti countersued for $50 million, adding NBC and producers Thomas Miller and Robert Boyett as defendants. The couple claimed they were fired without cause.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations Monday.
Langberg said Friday if the jury decides the couple was wrongfully fired and that Lorimar terminated them in bad faith, the jury should award them as much as $22.8 million, based on profits if Harper had remained with the show, Langberg said.
The couple also could get punitive damages. If awarded, the amount would be determined later by the jury.
Langberg said Lorimar had promised Valerie Harper a "strong voice" in the show's scripts and direction and had breached her contract by eroding that right. When Harper objected, they accused her of being "disruptive," he said.
"I think the only thing she didn't do is be a nice little actress and say, `Yes Mr. (Thomas) Miller, yes Mr. (Robert) Boyett, I'll read my lines just as you say,' " Langberg told the jury.
He painted Miller, Boyett and a parade of other Lorimar witnesses as "two-faced" and pointed out discrepancies in their pretrial statements and testimony on the stand.
Lorimar's lawyer, Don Engel, told the jury Thursday that Harper quit because she was unhappy and did not get the $2.2 million a year she demanded that would have nearly doubled her salary.
Harper left the show May 12, 1987, during a hiatus and returned briefly that August before leaving permanently. The show was retitled "Hogan Family" and now stars Sandy Duncan.
Superior Court Judge William Ho-goboom, who had retired, was hired to preside over the 31/2-week-old trial at a cost of $15,000 a week to those on trial, instead of waiting the three to five years it normally would have taken at county cost.