Actress Valerie Harper Sued for $2M For Having Brain Cancer

TV's 'Rhoda' nailed Tony nomination for her Broadway role

Valerie Harper Visits
Monica Schipper/Getty ImagesValerie Harper on Fox & Friends, April 17, 2014
Cancer is ugly. Show biz can be, too. And in the high publicity, big money stakes of a national touring production, when things go wrong, they get nasty.

Playwright Matthew Lombardo and the people behind the show Looped have sued actress Valerie Harper for not telling them that she had lung cancer that subsequently spread to her brain, according to the New York Daily News. She had nailed a Tony award nomination for the play's role of legendary screen actress Tallulah Bankhead in 2010 and was to be part of the touring company last year when she got the diagnosis. The action was a counterclaim to one Harper allegedly filed, looking for pay from from the production.

Lombardo and the producers say they lost $500,000 in the process and seek an additional $1.5 million in damages. They claim that Harper, who gained fame in 1970s TV on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, and her husband knew she had lung cancer and "knowingly withheld the truth." Lombardo also claims that he actually wanted a different actress for the touring version but that Harper insisted on playing the part.

According to the playwright, until late 2012, just before the release of her autobiography, he didn't know that Harper had battled lung cancer. At that time the show was well well into rehearsals. Lombardo alleges that Harper showed slurred speech and memory losses. According to the suit, he urged her to seek medical help.

Closer Weekly magazine recently quoted the actress as declaring herself "absolutely cancer-free," but Harper told ABC News the report was incorrect and that she was "cautiously optimistic about my present condition and I have hope for the future."

In January 2013, Harper released a statement after being hospitalized during rehearsals, according to Broadway.com:

"It is with deep sadness and regret that I will be unable to honor my commitment to the tour of Looped," Harper said in statement. "This play has been such a gift and it was my hope and intention to play this role again in the upcoming tour. But given my doctor's recent recommendations, I must now put all my energy into getting well and renewing my strength."

When Harper left, the producers went into a panic. They needed an actress who was available to quickly step in and who had enough name recognition to pull in an audience. As Broadway.com reported then, Stefanie Powers, who starred in the 1970s show Hart to Hart, and who knew Harper from guest appearances on Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda, stepped in.

According to the 2013 diagnosis, Harper wasn't expected to live more than a few months. But she did, and apparently was the first to court. The actress reportedly had sued Lombardo and the producers to be paid for the play, even though she had to drop out. Lombardo's suit was a counterclaim, a legal tactic often used to gain a stronger bargaining position in a dispute.

Since then, Harper has managed to keep working, guest starring in two episodes of the Hallmark Channel's Signed, Sealed, Delivered, according to the Inquisitr blog. Earlier this year, she appeared in a two-part interview on Entertainment Tonight, as her Twitter feed mentioned.

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vaultman007ret

Linda: you are blowing smoke up someones ass. You are singing Valerie praises about her terminal cancer and if you read the the article Her terminal cancer went away like a fart in a wind storm and she is alive and well. I am not implying that she never had cancer and went through a period of stress and turmoil, but keep in mind that she is an actor and as such played her affliction out to the max. Now look at the other side of the coin. Her business is a dog eat dog existence and as such the producers are as tenacious and determined as she is. She knew about her condition for an extended period and it seems that it was swept under the table until she had to take action. It's obvious she had signed the contracts to perform probably knowing she would be unable to fulfill her legal commitment and although she left the production for health reasons the production still had to get a substitute and bring the sub up to speed. To me this reeks of some one that was attempting the odds in their favor. Her efforts to bring legal action for a salary that she did not earn will point this out. She opened the door for a counter suit and the production company has every right to protect their investment. Keeping in ming that Valerie withheld vital health information that likely would have prevented her from securing a contract in the initial stages of the production. Apparently by withholding her condition she herself did not believe that the situation was a bad as it really was. I truly am glad that she pulled thru the crisis and wish she has continued good health. However she took a gamble and lost.

Sunday at 3:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
msanbaker

Lung cancer likes brain. A simple biopsy would have set it straight from the beginning .

May 29 2014 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to msanbaker's comment
realrambo

Nice to know some people have more kdge on cancer than the medical profession , when are you opening your fist clinic ....

Sunday at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
paralegal91502

So much for medical privacy and the Americans with Disabilities Act

May 07 2014 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JASON HODY

Back The Hell Off Of Valerie Harper. Whoever inspired this suffers from extremely poor behavior. They definitely have no civil, diplomatic & caring behavior in the space between both ears.

May 06 2014 at 1:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
goetzbog

If I would have written a headline like this in journalism class I would have failed the assignment!

May 05 2014 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
goetzbog

People read the entire article. It is a misleading headline! Harper sued them first for a salary that she never earned!

May 05 2014 at 11:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
garcialibby

Sued for having cancer and not blabbing in all over is just bad form. She wants to continue to work and telling them upfront would have ended the same way. Valerie not working. They can find a replacement for their stage production. REALLY. show business has NO HEART.

May 05 2014 at 12:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
CAMERON

Ok sad but. They did not have an understudy just in case of illness?
This is so very sad

May 04 2014 at 7:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Sue

Just how much did they lose, when they had someone immediately step in for her? Sounds like another case of greed and not on Valerie's part.

April 30 2014 at 8:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vendelavee

This story does NOT tell the whole story and is misleading. The FACT is that Harper sued this guy FIRST for full payment of her salary for the show when she never even performed in it. She left during rehearsals for the show. She wants to be paid for NOT performing. She is the one who is greedy.

"The action was a counterclaim to one Harper allegedly filed, looking for pay from the production."

April 30 2014 at 8:18 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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