Reuters news service reports that a federal judge has thrown out a jury verdict holding Elizabeth Taylor liable for more than $600,000 in damages to fellow actress Cicely Tyson in a contract dispute.
U.S. District Judge John Martin ruled that Taylor was not personally liable for any breach in the contract between Tyson and Zev Bufman Entertainment, Inc., a production company affiliated with Taylor that had hired Tyson to act in a 1983 production of The Corn Is Green.
Taylor said in a videotaped testimony she believed she was lending no more than her name to the production and that she was not undertaking any financial risk. Critics allegedly panned her performance, and Tyson was fired for taking a night off to attend a Washington tribute to her then husband, jazz trumpet legend Miles Davis. Kristin Linklater replaced Tyson for the last four performance. Other members of the company included Peter Gallagher, Elizabeth Seal, Gil Rogers, Mia Dillon and Irish Repertory regular Ciaran O'Reilly.
The Corn Is Green closed Sept. 18, 1983 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre after 32 performances and 21 previews. Tyson sued the Bufman company, and the two co-producers Bufman and Taylor. Tyson alleged she was improperly terminated and was still owed $607,000 plus interest, under a minimum payment guaranteed by her contract.
In throwing out the September jury verdict, the judge said that the contract containing the minimum payment guarantee was signed by Zev Bufman Entertainment. So... "When one enters into a contract with a corporation, one is aware that the obligations of the agreement are binding only on the corporation and that the shareholders and the officers of the corporation are not personally liable for any damages resulting from a breach of the agreement,'' Martin said in his ruling dated Monday, Jan. 6. "...There is no evidence that there was ever an agreement that Ms. Taylor or Mr. Bufman would personally guarantee the obligation . . . ," the judge said. --By David Lefkowitz