One day after ordering actress Kim Basinger to pay $8.9 million for breaching an oral agreement to appear in the movie "Boxing Helena," a Los Angeles jury refused Thursday to add punitive damages to the verdict.
It took only five minutes for the panel to render its decision on punitive damages after attorneys for Basinger and Main Line Pictures--the small independent production company that sued her--reached a stipulated agreement that the internationally known movie star had a total net worth of $5,387,382.19.
At the heart of the case is the way that Hollywood makes movie deals. Big stars often make commitments to appear in movies based on a handshake rather than waiting until a written agreement is signed by all parties. Main Line President Carl Mazzocone said he lost millions of dollars in foreign pre-sales when the actress abruptly dropped out of his film in 1991.
Main Line attorney Eric Landau had asked the jury for $1 million to $2 million in punitive damages, saying it would send a message to the entertainment world that "star power cannot run riot. Everybody must be treated equally."
But attorney Howard Weitzman, who represented Basinger, asked for "$0 or $1" in punitive damages. He said his client had been "punished . . . beyond her means."
After Thursday's court hearing, Mazzocone was embraced by some of the jurors. One told him: "We set a precedent."
Several jurors said no one on the panel bore any ill will toward the actress, even though Weitzman said Wednesday that he thought jurors disliked her.
"Nobody disliked her," said juror Geraldine Arquisola of Los Angeles. "She is really a nice lady."
Jury Foreman Kevin Andersen of Redondo Beach said the panel was trying to send a message to Hollywood with its large verdict.
"The message was they should do business like everybody else," Andersen said.