LOS ANGELES -- The fate of a lawsuit filed by actor Rob Lowe and his wife against one of two former nannies for allegedly revealing confidential information in violation of a contract is now in the hands of a judge, who said she wants additional briefing before ruling.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said she would consider new cases cited during arguments by attorneys for the Lowes and Laura Boyce on Tuesday and make a decision sometime after receiving the last brief on March 20.
Ex-nannies Boyce and Jessica Gibson were sued by the Rob and Sheryl Lowe in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, respectively, last April for allegedly breaking confidentiality agreements with the couple. Both women countersued the Lowes.
The Lowes' complaint against Boyce, filed last April 7 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleged defamation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional misrepresentation.
Boyce's countersuit, filed April 30, alleges that Sheryl Lowe engaged in "sexually offensive and hostile conduct" between April and November of last year, which included walking around nude in front of Boyce, asking about her sexual relations with a black former pro basketball player and talking about her sex life with her actor husband.
Boyce's lawyers, Gloria Allred and Dolores Leal, have moved to dismiss the Lowes' complaint against their client on grounds it violates her free-speech rights. They maintain it was filed against her in retaliation for her talking about her working conditions at the Lowe household with an attorney for Gibson. Boyce was no longer working with the Lowes when she spoke to the lawyer.
"To allow the Lowes' complaint to proceed would send a message to potential witnesses such as Ms. Boyce that they can't talk about labor conditions or they might get sued," Leal told Duffy-Lewis.
However, Lowe attorney Stanton L. Stein maintains that Boyce signed a contract forbidding her from divulging private family information and cannot turn around and claim now that her First Amendment rights are being infringed upon. He also said there is no public policy issue involved.
"This is not something that occurred in an office building, but in the privacy of a home," Stein said.
After Tuesday's hearing, Allred and Stein declined to predict how the judge will rule. However, Stein said he was pleased to get the opportunity to fully argue the case.
In her own declaration in support of her dismissal motion, Boyce states she got a phone message on March 31, 2008, from Sheryl Lowe, stating that she did not want "any weirdness there" and didn't want Boyce "to resent us or think that we were trying to not pay you ... "
Boyce worked for the Lowes as a nanny to their two sons, Matthew and John Owen, and signed a confidentiality agreement like every other Lowe employee, according to the litigation.
Outside the courtroom, Stein released a statement in which he alleged copies of text messages between Gibson and Boyce show they are "conspiring together and that their lawsuits are actually motivated by their hostility toward Rob's wife" and that neither have alleged any wrongdoing by the actor.
"My dad thinks we have a case, and my sister is calling her lawyer friend," Gibson stated in a text to Boyce in March 2008, according to the statement released by Stein.
The lawyer said the Lowes have been made the target of "lawsuit lottos" and alleged Boyce and Gibson tried to get Rob to pay them $1.5 million.
"When he wouldn't, they went after his wife and kids," the Stein statement read.
Last July, a Santa Barbara County judge dismissed four of the Lowes' defamation claims against Gibson. The judge also threw out Gibson's retaliation claim within her countersuit.
Lowe, who currently stars in the ABC series "Brothers & Sisters," and his wife, a television and film makeup artist, have been married since July 1991.