Larry Birkhead, Howard K. Stern & Debra Opri: Will Opri’s Lawsuit Reveal the Video?

Posted on Sep 26, 2007 in Celebrity Justice

blondeambition32.jpgLarry Burkhead has been counter-sued this week by his former attorney, Debra Opri.  Debra Opri is claiming that Larry Birkhead harmed her reputation when he appeared on Larry King Live and said that Opri was a source for Rita Cosby, as she was writing her book, Blonde Ambition.  Opri’s alleging that she’s had to spend $200,000 on a “crisis management team” to “salvage” her reputation.  TMZ has put the Opri counterclaim online, if you want to read it.

What’s going on here? Can lawyers sue clients? Why would Opri sue Burkhead? And, will this force the revelation of the source materials for the Rita Cosby book?  Will we get to see the video here?

Yes, lawyers can sue clients.  Usually, they do that as a last resort when a client fails to pay them. Interesting that here, it wasn’t Opri initially suing for her fees — it was Birkhead filing suit because she was withholding money from him.

Why is Opri suing here?  It’s always a sound negotiating strategy to have a counterclaim in your corner, if you have one, as a defendant.  You’re much less hat-in-hand in settlement talks: instead, the talks become more of “I’ll drop mine if you’ll drop yours.”

Opri filing a counterclaim for fraud and defamation in a case where she’s been sued for similar bad acts is a savvy move: it improves her negotiating stance and it muddies the waters of the plaintiff’s case in the eyes of a jury.  Finger pointing all around causes many a juror to shake her head.

Putting a significant figure here – $200,000 – as alleged damages ups the anty in any settlement talks as well.  Of course, there’s always the joke of whether or not lawyers have reputations to ruin in the first place …..

Finally, Opri’s bringing into play the Cosby book.  Curious by its absence has been any lawsuit filed by either Burkhead or Howard K. Stern to stop the book being published, or to claim damages from Cosby for defamation.  There’s still time for the suit to be filed, of course.  It’s interesting to ponder when and if these suits are ever going to be filed, though…..

Has Opri essentially started the Cosby fight here?  Maybe.  The key issue here is whether or not Opri gave info to Rita Cosby.  It is not what are the sources for Cosby’s book, nor the actual back-up documentation for Cosby’s book.

But it’s getting close.  If Cosby wants a cheap vindication of her book, she could always dump all her source material into Opri’s defense case – the argument: “here’s all Cosby’s stuff and where she got it, see Opri’s not involved” – and then the Mystery Video might get seen without any lawsuit involving Rita Cosby ever getting filed. �

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