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THE COURT FILES / ANN W. O'NEILL

Actress Sues to Keep Mother Away From Assets

Ratty little house on the prairie? . . . Quarterback sneak? . . . Fluff-and-fold justice . . . Left hook.

November 14, 1999|ANN W. O'NEILL

If you've seen "Contact," "Stepmom" or "For Love of the Game" at the movies, if you've watched "Chicago Hope," "Homicide" or "Touched by an Angel" on television, then you've seen Jena Malone at work.

This 14-year-old is blessed with talent to burn. She's burdened, a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court charges, with a mother who lived off her earnings and mismanaged her money.

Jena, who has lived on her own off and on, is seeking emancipation from her mother, 36-year-old Debbie Malone; the case is pending in Juvenile Court. The precocious 14-year-old also recently filed a related suit in Superior Court, accusing mom of squandering more than $1 million.

Jena won a partial victory in her quest to keep her mother away from her money. Superior Court Judge David Yaffe enjoined Debbie Malone from making good on her threat to move Jena, against her will, to a tiny apartment in Las Vegas--a sure career killer, Jena's attorneys argue. The banks that hold Jena's accounts have frozen them for now.

Court papers by attorney Marty Singer say that Malone has lived off her daughter's earnings for years. Because of Malone's mismanagement, the suit alleges, Jena owes $20,000 in back taxes and her college fund has been drained.

Instead, court documents allege, Malone has spent the money on business schemes, and for down payments on homes for her father and three brothers.

Paul Peterson, who heads an advocacy group for child performers called A Minor Consideration and who has been consulted on the case, says Jena should have at least $360,000 in a blocked trust account; instead there is only about $80,000.

The money is supposed to be set aside for Jena under a law named after child actor Jackie Coogan, whose high-living mother left him broke. The law calls for up to 20% of a child performer's earnings to be put in trust until the performer reaches age 18.

The parties return to court Nov. 24. Debbie Malone did not return our phone call.

EEK, A MOUSE: A man who bought a Hidden Hills home from Melissa Gilbert and Bruce Boxleitner claims the house was damaged and infested with rats and flies when he took possession.

Edward Czuker contends that the actor couple breached the sales contract by leaving the property "infested with both live and dead rats, mold, fungus, dry rot, live and dead flies everywhere."

Then, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court suit, there was the inoperable electrical system, with its wires left dangerously exposed. Light fixtures, as well as the built-in stereo and intercom, were ripped out. The pond and landscaping service was canceled eight weeks before escrow closed. Dirt was everywhere, which "made the house uninhabitable."

Czuker seeks $210,000 in damages--the amount he says he needs to spend before he can move into the house. He also seeks unspecified punitive damages.

John Loeb, an attorney for Gilbert and Boxleitner, said the couple were blown away by the suit and completely surprised. They'd had the house cleaned when they moved out, he said. Gilbert's lawyer, Marcia J. Harris, said she has visited the Hidden Hills home several times and found it "absolutely gorgeous, definitely not a rat house. I would go so far to say it was spotless."

ONLY A LAWSUIT: Dr. Robert Huizenga claims Warner Bros. has stiffed him for at least $1 million and credit for the movie version of his 1994 book "You're OK, It's Only a Bruise."

The book detailed his days as team physician for the Los Angeles Raiders. In his Los Angeles Superior Court breach of contract suit, Huizenga claims the Oliver Stone film "Any Given Sunday," due to be released next month, is based on his book. Despite a contract with the studio, Huizenga says, he hasn't been paid or given the proper credits.

A Warner Bros. spokeswoman said the doctor "was fully compensated for his services." She declined further comment.

Huizenga, by the way, was the doctor the defense summoned to examine O.J. Simpson shortly after the murders of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman.

NO DIRTY LINEN: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman don't have to worry about any dirty linen being aired by their former wardrobe assistant.

Superior Court Judge Marilyn Hoffman dismissed a wrongful termination suit filed against the Hollywood ubercouple in February by Judita Gomez, the woman who fluffed, folded, picked out and packed their clothes for five years.

Gomez claimed she was fired without good reason and has been unable to find a similarly high-class job.

Attorneys for Mr. and Mrs. Top Gun told the judge that Gomez had been uncooperative and not entirely credible during pretrial depositions.

UNHAPPY UNHOOKER: The widow of the late and legendary porn star John Holmes is suing her husband's former business partner for slander in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Laurie Holmes, who appeared in adult films during the 1980s, claims that William Amerson called her a "hooker" in an on-camera interview for an R-rated documentary called "WADD: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes."

She seeks unspecified damages from Amerson and VCA Labs Inc., the film's distributor. She says she was never a prostitute. John Holmes died of AIDS in 1988.

A VCA spokesman couldn't be reached for comment.

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