Brittany Murphy's Mom Sues Over Missed Opportunity to Assign Blame for Daughter's Death

Sharon Murphy files malpractice suit against her former attorneys, who advised her to settle with construction and design firms who worked on Brittany's home

By Natalie Finn Dec 20, 2011 2:22 AMTags
Brittany Murphy, Sharon MurphyJeff Vespa/ Getty Images

Two years after her daughter's death, Brittany Murphy's mom has no intention of letting anyone off the hook.

Sharon Murphy is suing her former attorneys for malpractice, claiming they steered her wrong when they advised her to settle a claim concerning the condition of the home Brittany died in, rather than consider the possibility of filing a wrongful death suit.

So, who did Sharon think was accountable—and why?

In her lawsuit against the L.A.-area law firm of Steiner & Libo, filed Friday and obtained by E! News, Sharon states that she discovered extensive water damage and mold infestation in the house where her daughter—and, later, her son-in-law Simon Monjack—died suddenly.

The Nina Bow Trust, which owned and operated the property, sued the contractor, subcontractor, and others back in 2006 over all of the perceived construction defects, the suit continues.

In January 2009, a month after Brittany died, Sharon's complaint states that she hired Steiner & Libo to represent her and become the attorney of record for the Nina Bow Trust.

The trust's suit was ultimately settled "with prejudice," meaning it couldn't be refiled, for an undisclosed sum in January.

Sharon's new attorneys are arguing now that her former lawyers should have determined that both Brittany and Monjack's deaths from pneumonia were directly related to "complications from conditions associated with" the "defective construction" of their home, where Sharon also lived.

The defendants "had a duty to advise and/or inform Plaintiff that she may have had a wrongful death claim" and either file an action on behalf or refer her to another firm that specialized in such matters, Sharon's suit alleges.

She is seeking damages and court costs on charges of legal malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

Following an autopsy, pneumonia was listed as Brittany Murphy's primary cause of death, with iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication listed as secondary causes. Toxicology tests turned up traces of Vicodin, as well as asthma and cold medications, in her body when she died.

Interestingly, Sharon shot down a July 2010 TMZ report that said the L.A. County Department of Public Health had checked the house out for toxic mold after Simon's death. Brittany's publicist said that he was aware of Simon wanting to file suit over a "persistent leak problem," but an attorney for the estate backed up Sharon, saying, "To the best of my knowledge there has been no evidence of mold at the Murphy residence."

—Additional reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum