Court of Appeal Throws Out $3.7 Million Judgment Against ‘Golden Girls’ Actress Rue McClanahan
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Hollywood writer/director Dirk Summer’s $3.7 million default judgment against his former girlfriend, “The Golden Girls” actress Rue McClanahan, has been set aside by this district’s Court of Appeal.
Finding that the summons had not been properly served on McClanahan, the court reversed an order of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, set aside the judgment, and vacated McClanahan’s default.
In the latest in a series of suits by Summers against McClanahan, he accused her of libel, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of a failed joint business venture, the record showed.
Summer’s attorney, Eugene Paolino, declared that he served the summons and complaint on McClanahan by leaving copies with Barbara Lawrence, McClanahan’s”authorized agent,” and mailing copies to Lawrence at her office address, the record showed. Lawrence testified that she forwarded the documents to John Edwards, the attorney representing McClanahan in another suit involving Summers.
Edwards said that he advised McClanahan that she did not need to file a response to the complaint because it was not properly served.
After McClanahan failed to respond to the complaint, Summers had her default entered. In his default prove-up declaration, he said that as a result of McClanahan’s defamatory statements, he was unable to find work as a television writer and producer, and sought $1.75 in damages for lost past and future earnings, $1 million for lost reputation and $1 million in punitive damages.
After Treu entered judgment for Summers, McClanahan promptly moved for relief on the ground that the summons had not been properly served.
Although he acknowledged that Lawrence, who was McClanahan’s personal agent, was not authorized by her to accept service of process, Treu denied the motion. He ruled that service was good because the documents”found [their] way to the defendant by admitted receipt of counsel for defendant,” and thus met the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 416.90 which authorizes service on a person”authorized by [the defendant] to receive service of process.”
Justice Earl Johnson Jr., writing for the Div. Seven panel, disagreed.
“Summers’ rationale would appear to be if service of process, even if totally outside the statutory prescriptions, has somehow resulted in actual notice to the defendant in time to defend the action then any defects in the manner of service should be overlooked. As we previously observed, no California appellate opinion has adopted this rationale and, we think, for good reason,” he said.
“Adopting Summers’ rationale would constitute a judicial repeal of California’s statutory law governing service of process and the adoption of only one rule:”A summons may be served on anyone, anywhere, by any means which results in actual notice of the action in time to defend.”
Summers had previously sued McClanahan, alleging $45 million in damages for alleged fraud when she allegedly backed out of a deal to open a luxury spa in San Diego because he wouldn’t marry her. McClanahan denied the claims and cross-complained that Summers took $180,000 from her and never paid it back.
Summers pleaded guilty to swindling the actress out of $200,000, the New York Daily News has reported.
In another suit, Summers sued McClanahan for animal neglect, alleging that she abandoned her sickly dog. McClanahan, an animal-rights activist, denied the allegations.
Summers and McClanahan worked together on the 1972 movie “Survivorship of Planet Earth” which he produced, directed and co-wrote, and in which she co-starred.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company