LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A judge who was on the verge of allowing a defamation suit by Donald Sterling’s mistress to go forward decided Friday to reconsider after hearing from a lawyer for Shelley Sterling.
Attorney Pierce O’Donnell called the filing by V. Stiviano an act of spite and revenge against the estranged wife of the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
O’Donnell filed a motion to dismiss Stiviano’s suit in what is known as an anti-SLAPP motion against retaliatory actions.
Stiviano’s lawyer Mac Nehoray claims Shelley Sterling called his client a thief on national TV. But O’Donnell said neither he nor Nehoray was able to find any evidence of such a statement to submit to the court.
Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin said he didn’t hear it, if it was broadcast, and agreed to consider dismissing the claim.
O’Donnell and Nehoray were initially advised of a tentative written ruling by the judge denying Shelley Sterling’s move to dismiss the case. But after hearing arguments in court, Fruin decided to take another look.
O’Donnell argued that Stiviano’s lawyer failed to specify defamatory statements made about Stiviano.
“This is a phantom statement,” he said. “No one in this courtroom knows to whom or when it was said.”
The judge eventually agreed, telling Nehoray: “I don’t really know what Mrs. Sterling may or may not have said. You haven’t told me except for these very general statements that are vague. I didn’t hear it and you don’t quote it.”
Stiviano filed her countersuit in response to the lawsuit by Shelley Sterling seeking $2.5 million. Sterling claims that gifts her husband lavished on Stiviano belong to her as community property.
Fruin has set a March 9 date for the trial of Shelley Sterling’s lawsuit seeking return of the gifts that include a $1.8 million duplex, a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover worth more than $500,000.
Fruin said his decision in the countersuit likely would be appealed. To avoid delays, he said he would separate that suit from Shelley Sterling’s original suit.