Suit Over Andy Warhol Painting of Farrah Fawcett May Move Forward

A judge indicated Friday she is inclined to allow Ryan O'Neal to move forward with his lawsuit against the former trustee of Farrah Fawcett's living trust over a protracted legal battle with the University of Texas for possession of an Andy Warhol portrait of the late actress.

However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer said in a tentative ruling that she also is leaning toward dismissing accountant Richard Bernard Francis's two companies, Francis Property Management Inc. and Richard B. Francis LLC, as defendants in the case.

Feffer is scheduled to hearing arguments Tuesday before issuing a final ruling.

Feffer said lawyers for the companies provided evidence that the entities were not involved in any of the conduct at issue in the lawsuit and that Francis -- who worked for decades as O'Neal's business manager -- was not acting on behalf of the companies.

"Further, (the companies) provide evidence that (Francis Property Management) ... has never entered into any contract with O'Neal, never provided services to O'Neal, and has never received any payment from O'Neal," Feffer wrote. "O'Neal admitted that he had never heard of FPM and did not know what it does."

O'Neal, 75, filed the lawsuit in October 2015, alleging Francis put his interests ahead of those of the "Love Story" actor.

Both O'Neal and Fawcett -- who had an on-again, off-again relationship that produced a son -- had Warhol paintings of the actress.

Before she died of cancer in June 2009, Fawcett bequeathed all of her original artwork, as well as a second Warhol portrait of the actress that also was created by the artist in 1980, to the university that the Texas-born beauty attended for several years in the 1960s.

O'Neal's suit alleges that when the University of Texas threatened to sue Francis to obtain the actor's Fawcett portrait, Francis settled with the school rather than invoke a no-contest provision in the trust that would have forced UT to reconsider its legal move.

The trust's no-contest provision "was a powerful tool to be used by the trustee against beneficiaries like UT who challenged the trustee's actions," the suit alleges.

By settling with the university, Francis escaped liability for himself and left it up to O'Neal to defend himself in the lawsuit the university brought against him for return of the portrait, his complaint alleges.

Attorney Todd Eagan, on behalf of O'Neal, maintains that Francis should have told the actor of his plans to settle with the university.

In her tentative ruling, Feffer says there are triable issues concerning O'Neal's allegations against Francis as an individual.

"Francis ... was required to act in the highest good faith towards O'Neal, make full disclosure of material facts, not acquire an adverse interest and not use his position to gain any advantage or to make any special profit," Feffer wrote.

"These significant obligations to O'Neal were breached when Francis entered into the agreement, waiving the no-contest provision and consenting that UT could pursue its claims for the portrait directly against O'Neal with impunity in exchange for a release of liability for Francis."

In December 2013, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that O'Neal's Warhol portrait of Fawcett belonged to him. O'Neal insisted the Warhol piece was given to him as a gift by the late artist and that Fawcett and her friends knew he was the owner when she died.

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