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Suit Blames Hartman Murder-Suicide on Antidepressant

The antidepressant Zoloft--and not marital problems, alcohol or cocaine--pushed Brynn Hartman to shoot and kill her comedian husband, Phil, and then take her own life, the executor of the couple’s estates charges in a lawsuit.

The Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed by Brynn’s brother, Gregory C. Ohmdahl, seeks unspecified damages from Pfizer Inc. on behalf of the estates and the Hartmans’ children, Sean and Birgen. It also accuses Sean’s Encino doctor, Arthur Sorosky, of medical malpractice. The doctor had no comment, and a spokesman for the drug company could not be reached.

According to court papers, Sorosky gave Brynn Hartman a manufacturer’s sample of Zoloft on March 26, 1998, two months before the murder-suicide. The suit claims that Sorosky did not give her a physical examination or note her medical history and “did not have the traditional doctor/patient relationship” with her.

The suit further alleges that Pfizer has downplayed Zoloft’s potential side effects, including violence or suicide in some people, while engaging in an aggressive marketing campaign to encourage physicians to dispense or prescribe the medication as “panacea pills for all of the moodiness woes of the ‘90s.”

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MORON, EH?: Don’t you hate it when your old boss disses you behind your back? Cathleen Valentino, former personal assistant to producers Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sykes, was upset enough about such alleged behavior to sue over it.

Valentino claims in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Sykes referred to her as “a moron” and “an idiot” during a party at Mayor Richard Riordan’s house. She also charges that Sykes called newswoman Maria Shriver to pass on a bad reference.

According to court papers, Valentino worked for Bud Yorkin Productions from July 20 until Feb. 11, when she was abruptly fired. She handled Sykes’ social calendar and travel schedule, ran the office and supervised the household staff, the suit says. She claims that Yorkin and Sykes told her, “The sky is the limit if you do a good job.”

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The suit seeks a $1,100 paycheck that Valentino says she’s owed, as well as unspecified damages for breach of contract, wrongful termination and defamation. There was no reply to a phone message left at Bud Yorkin Productions.

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DELIBERATE THIS: Here’s a novel way to get out of jury duty: Threaten to slap your fellow jurors “upside the head” if they push your “buttons.”

The tale of an irate Long Beach panelist, identified only as Juror No. 3, emerged in a 2nd District state Court of Appeal opinion upholding a drug-dealing conviction. The court found that the juror was properly excused from the panel during heated deliberations.

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“Juror No. 3 stated she would physically assault anyone who ‘pushed her buttons’ again,” Justice Earl Johnson wrote in his opinion. “We conclude the trial court reasonably determined it would not only be dangerous to Juror No. 3’s health, but to the health and safety of the other deliberating jurors” not to dismiss her. Justices Mildred L. Lillie and Norvell F. Woods concurred.

The juror asked to be excused and said she was “stressed” over having to make a decision in the case. Minutes after she was replaced with an alternate, the jurors found the defendant guilty.

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BLEEP.COM: A California company named after the famous George Carlin comedy routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” says a Virginia firm that regulates names of Internet sites is engaging in censorship.

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Seven Words LLC is asking a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to order Network Solutions to approve the F-word for use as a Web domain. The suit says some of the six other taboo words are registered, as are some highly creative names that include the F-word.

The suit claims that Network Solutions execs can’t decide which of the “seven dirty words” merit “either a .com or a .net suffix.” In the case of one four-letter word, the suit states, it was registered for a ".com” but shot down for a ".net.”

A spokesman for Network Solutions could not be reached.

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SPORTS TORTS: A hockey fan is suing the San Jose Sharks, players Joe Murphy and Mike Ricci and the Los Angeles Kings, claiming that he was hurt by a puck the Shark players tossed into the stands while he celebrated a goal by the Kings’ Luc Robitaille. . . . Meanwhile, an Alhambra woman is suing Bally’s Total Fitness for allegedly failing to properly supervise a man who swam into her while she was doing laps in the Rosemead club’s pool. He allegedly caused “severe injuries” to her head and right eye, not to mention “physical pain and suffering, indignity, mortification, nervousness, grief, insomnia, anxiety, shock, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress, and fear for her physical and mental health and financial health.”


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