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Ryan O’Neal’s Case For Andy Warhol Portrait of Farrah Fawcett Moves Forward

Actors Farrah Fawcett (L) and Ryan O'Neal arrive at the premiere of "Malibu's Most Wanted" at the Chinese Theater in 2003 (Thinkstock: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images).
Actors Farrah Fawcett (L) and Ryan O’Neal arrive at the premiere of “Malibu’s Most Wanted” at the Chinese Theater in 2003 (Thinkstock: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images).

A judge ruled today that Ryan O’Neal can 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.

O’Neal, 74, filed suit against accountant Richard Bernard Francis and his companies, Francis Property Management Inc. and Richard B. Francis LLC, on Oct. 2. The suit alleges Francis put his interests ahead of those of O’Neal, for whom Francis worked for decades as the actor’s business manager.

In her ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer rejected arguments by attorneys for Francis and his companies that the lawsuit was filed too late. She also disagreed with attorney Michael Taitelman, who represents the Francis entities, that the companies are not liable for any actions Francis may have taken.

“The pleadings are sufficient at this stage,” Feffer said. “Whether a jury buys it may be a different story.”

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 suit the university brought against him for return of the portrait, the suit alleges.

Attorney Todd Eagan, on behalf of O’Neal, said Francis should have told the actor of his plans to settle with the university. He also said O’Neal’s claims were not time-barred.

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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