Valerie Harper, the 74-year-old 1970s TV sitcom favorite, has been in show business long enough to know that Broadway can be a cutthroat business. But when she was diagnosed with brain cancer during rehearsals for the the national tour of Looped in January last year, she probably did not expect to get sued for it.
But that is exactly what’s happening. Playwright Matthew Lombardo and the show’s producers are suing the beloved Rhoda and Mary Tyler Moore Show star, saying that she hid her illness from them to keep her job in the national touring company of Looped — even though doctors gave her just months to live.
As it happens, Valerie Harper has defied the odds and is still going strong today, even guest-starring in two episodes of the Hallmark Channel series Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But at the time she was diagnosed — after uncharacteristically forgetting lines and even slurring her speech during rehearsals — she was told she’d be lucky to survive past Easter of 2013.
But now that she’s still alive, Lombardo and the Looped producers figure that her poor judgment in getting brain cancer means that Valerie Harper owes them $2 million.
That is the amount they are asking of Harper, according to the entertainment news site TMZ, because the inconvenience she caused by dropping out of the play in order to fight for her life cost them $500,000. The other $1.5 million are punitive damages Lombardo and the producers believe that the cancer patient should hand over to them, to teach her a lesson.
The lawsuit is a response to an earlier suit filed by Valerie Harper in which she alleged that the producers failed to pay her the money remaining on her contract.
The producers say that her sudden withdrawal from the Looped tour due to brain cancer forced them to move much faster than they would have liked in order to replace her.
Valerie Harper won a Tony Award in 2010 for her role in the Broadway production of the play.