Nicollette Sheridan used to be on the show Desperate Housewives. Upon being cast, she entered into a contract that gave Touchstone Television Pictures the exclusive right to renew her contract on an annual basis for six seasons. Touchstone chose to exercise its option for four years. However, prior to Season 6, Touchstone opted not to renew the contract.
Ms. Sheridan filed a lawsuit alleging that Touchstone’s failure to renew her contract was, in essence, a wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The public policy violation at issue was her complaint about the show’s creator after he struck her.
The Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandate finding that Touchstone’s release of Ms. Sheridan’s contract was not a termination. As it was not a termination, the public policy violation argument could not be sustained. There is no action in California for “tortuous nonrenewal of an employment contract in violation of public policy.”