Valerie Harper Being Sued for Getting Cancer -- Yes, Really

Valerie HarperThere are icky, oh-no-they-didn't lawsuits, and then there's the one actress Valerie Harper has just been slapped with. Harper, who went public with her terminal cancer diagnosis last year, is being sued by Broadway playwright Matthew Lombardo after she failed to properly notify the producers of her former show Looped about her medical condition.

TMZ's calling it "the most tasteless lawsuit we've ever read," which is pretty impressive, because ... well. TMZ.


Harper, 74, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January of 2013. A few months later, she went public with the revelation that she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain. Her doctors told her she had as little as three months left to live.

As you know, the Mary Tyler Moore Show veteran has gone on to make a remarkable recovery of sorts, even appearing on Dancing With the Stars. She says she's not cancer-free, but she's "cautiously optimistic" about her condition.

Playwright Matthew Lombardo and the producers of Looped must believe Harper's going to be around long enough to cough up some cash, because they're suing her for $2 million. Their allegations: that Harper and her husband Tony Cacciotti were "both aware" of Harper's lung cancer diagnosis in 2009, and “knowingly withheld the truth” when she signed on to the play.

Looped producers apparently noticed something was wrong when Harper began slurring and forgetting her lines during rehearsals, and at the director's urging, Harper went to see a doctor and that's when she learned the cancer had spread to her brain. After getting the news, Harper dropped out of the play, which Lombardo says left them insufficient time to find a replacement.

Lombardo says he and the play's producers lost $500,000 after having to replace Harper with Stefanie Powers on short notice. Along with the $500,000, they are seeking $1.5 million for being "misled."

This lawsuit is being filed as a counterclaim to one filed by Harper, in which she claims Lombardo failed to pay her the rest of her salary as set forth in her contract. So basically it's a total legal mess, and I can't believe Lombardo's reacting this way instead of just paying out her contract and chalking the situation up to "shit happens, including terminal cancer." Don't plays have insurance for exactly this sort of thing? Was Harper really legally obligated to inform the Looped team of her private medical situation? Isn't she protected under HIPAA?

Besides, how did she mislead them? Her lung cancer was detected early and she had a very favorable outcome at the time:

My doctor told my husband and me that I had the best outcome ever. That I did have to have the lobe removed but I wouldn’t need radiation or chemo.

So it's not like she was on death's door and deliberately kept it from her employers just to eke out one last paycheck, for god's sake. This is just a gross move by the Looped team, and I can't imagine there's going to be much sympathy for their incredibly unfair situation of having a cast member get diagnosed with FATAL BRAIN CANCER.

What do you think of this lawsuit against Valeria Harper?

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