Jennifer Lopez notched one in the "loss" column Wednesday in her fight against her former chauffeur when an L.A. Superior Court judge booted her $20-million extortion cross-complaint against Hakob Manoukian.
The battle started back in April, when Manoukian, a driver for the singer and actress since 2005, sued Lopez and manager Benny Medina for breach of contract and more.
Lopez swung back at Manoukian in August, alleging extortion and seeking $20 million in damages. The singer claimed the driver had demanded $2.8 million and threatened to spill personal secrets if he didn't get it.
According to documents obtained by E! News, the countersuit was dismissed Thursday under California's anti-SLAPP law, which allows a plaintiff in a lawsuit to request dismissal of a cross-complaint believed to be a "strategic lawsuit against public participation" — that is, a countersuit designed primarily to burden the original plaintiff with a legal defense as a tactic to get the original case dropped.
Manoukian's suit, which is still pending, alleges in part that Medina had humiliated him publicly, and that Lopez and Medina in September 2011 had demoted him to be her L.A. driver only, rather than functioning as head of her transportation and security as previously agreed.
The more impressive job description, along with base pay of $72,000 a year plus "production pay" that would bring that number up to $200,000 annually, had been negotiated earlier in 2011 as part of a deal that had Manoukian giving up his own transportation company to become a full-time employee of Lopez's company, the lawsuit says.
The court documents, obtained by Radar Online, allege that Manoukian did not receive production pay in several cases before his official demotion, allegedly at Medina's instruction, and was not paid what he was owed when he left Lopez's employ. It also alleges that Lopez and Medina allowed working conditions "so intolerable or aggravated" that any reasonable person would feel compelled to resign.
Manoukian, who alleged that he was not allowed lunch breaks or overtime pay, is seeking compensatory and general damages, overtime compensation and more — including legal fees.
Medina told TMZ at the time the lawsuit was filed that Manoukian was a "disgruntled employee who chose to quit."
[For the record, 6:40 p.m. Dec. 26: This post originally said the counter-claim was dismissed Thursday. It was dismissed Wednesday.]
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