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Valerie Harper Sued for Not Disclosing Cancer; Producer Seeks $2M

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

Valerie Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, and had been silently fighting her battle with the disease until she disclosed it in her autobiography in 2013.

As if having cancer weren't bad enough, now Harper is facing a $2 million lawsuit filed by Broadway producer Matthew Lombardo, The Associated Press reports.

How did the situation unravel and get this bad? Here's a breakdown of the lawsuit:

Harper Stars in 'Looped'

Playwright Matthew Lombardo wrote "Looped," a play about Tallulah Bankhead and starring Valerie Harper, who headlined several productions in California, Florida, and Washington, D.C., in 2008 and 2009. Lombardo took the show to Broadway, where "Looped" ran for 33 shows and closed on April 11, 2010. The show didn't receive critical acclaim, though Harper was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance.

In fall 2012, it was agreed "Looped" would tour the United States, and Harper signed on to continue her role as Tallulah Bankhead. But in early 2013, Harper had to leave the production because she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Harper Sues for Breach of Contract

In November 2013, Harper, her husband Anthony Cacciotti and their production company sued Lombardo and his production companies (collectively "Lombardo") for breach of contract.

According to the complaint, Cacciotti had signed various agreements with Lombardo to finance the production, and among other things, had allowed Lombardo to use his credit cards to do so. One of the nine claims in the complaint was brought by Valerie Harper against Lombardo for failure to pay her a royalty, which under the agreement she was entitled to (albeit at a reduced rate), if she "wish[ed] to leave the production at any time."

Lombardo's Counterclaim: Thrown for a Loop?

Lombardo filed an answer, as one is required to do when sued, but he took it a step further: He filed a counterclaim against Harper in December 2013.

According to Lombardo, Harper and her husband breached their agreements when they "knowingly withheld the truth about Plaintiff Harper's cancer and consequent inability to perform in the 2013 national tour of Looped." Lombardo has a list of grievances including not hiring his first choice of actress, investing money he otherwise would not have, and incurring financial losses, reports the New York Daily News.

Though many cases settle, this case is progressing so far. Last week, the judge signed an order protecting the confidentiality of certain documents, no doubt because of the parties involved and the personal health issues that will come up.

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