Former Friends star Lisa Kudrow may get a second chance after she lost a court judgment to her former manager.
Lisa Kudrow, star of the 90s hit TV show Friends, hopes to get a new trial in the civil suit brought against her by her former manager, which she lost. This is due to the fact that the jury foreman in that trial has sent her what can best be described as a strange letter of apology.
In February Kudrow was ordered by a Santa Monica, California jury to pay $1.6 million in back residuals from her earnings for the syndicated reruns of Friends to her former manager Scott Howard. Howard could eventually receive as much as $8 million in compensation.
According to Howard, who Kudrow fired in 2007, the two had an oral agreement in which the actress promised him a continued 5% cut of her revenue that she continues to receive from the show’s syndication. Kudrow, on the other hand, claimed that she agreed to pay Howard on only the first round of residuals and nothing more.
Now a twist in the story may lead to a retrial. Steve de Bode, the jury’s foreman in that case, reportedly sent Kudrow a letter of apology by way of her lawyer.
In the letter Mr. de Bode says that the jury made a mistake and that he felt sorry for Kudrow whom he believes was maligned by Howard’s attorney in court. He asked Kudrow’s lawyer to pass his apologies on to her.
De Bode wrote, “Having now had some time to fully interpret the discussion within the jury room, I have come to realize that the majority of the jurors believed the Plaintiff’s council, who in his opening statement portrayed Lisa Kudrow as ‘the smartest person in the room’ and then over the course of the trial proceeded to demean and ‘play up’ her Phoebe Buffay role throughout.
“I personally hold her [Kudrow] in the highest regard for her bravery, honesty and determination in facing public scrutiny and media attention for what is and should have remained a private matter, in order to fight what she, and now I, believe was right.”
De Bode further claims that one of the jurors, a former district attorney named Ellen Aragon, pressured the other jurors into finding for Howard. Aragon allegedly told the other jurors that in her legal opinion Kudrow had breached her contract. De Bode also maintains that she told the rest of the jury to ignore the judge’s instructions as to how to interpret Kudrow’s contract with her manager.
If true, these accusations could require a new trial as such activities by one or more jurors in violate instructions as to how to deal solely with the evidence presented at trial and nothing else. For her part, the woman in question has denied de Bode’s claims.
Howard’s attorney, Mark Baute, has shot back by accusing de Bode of being “more than a bit eccentric” and “clearly in love” with Kudrow. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s common for celebrities who are surrounded by sycophants to pretend they don’t have to honor a jury’s verdict. Someone on Team Kudrow needs to tell her what she needs to hear, not what she wants to hear.”
But Kudrow, through her attorney, has already made demands for a new trial. And de Bode’s claims are not her only complaint.
According to Kudrow’s lawyer, another juror who did not speak English very well, was unable to “intelligibly convey his thoughts in English.” The lawyer further claims that the jurors violated the judge’s instructions by speculating as to the future value of revenues from the syndication of Friends.
The jury voted against Kudrow 10-2. In California only 8 jurors need to find in favor of a plaintiff in a civil suit.
Baute further warned Kudrow against a retrial. “There is no way any new lawyer is going to get you out of this. If you do face a re-trial, it will be 12-0 in Scott Howard’s favor and the judgment will be for more money.”
Also in Howard’s defense, three of the jurors have already signed sworn statements in which they deny de Bode’s claims.
De Bode, a British military veteran, came to the US in 2009 and only became an American citizen 9 months before the trial.
Baute also told the Hollywood Reporter, “The juror from Great Britain who was desperate to be the foreman was more than a bit eccentric. His letter and his declaration show clearly that he was so biased and in love with Ms. Kudrow that he was actually misquoting the record to the other jurors … they were polite to Mr. de Bode but they ignored his inaccurate memory and they humored his biased approach, and they entered a correct verdict in favor of Scott Howard.”
With more than 200 episodes, Friends is one of the most financially successful syndicated television programs of all time.
Lisa Kudrow can next be seen in a new season of her hit HBO series the Comeback.