Judge says Farrah Fawcett caregiver can testify
In this Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 file photo, actor Ryan O’Neal, right, leaves court after he testified in a Los Angeles courtroom about his relationship with Farrah Fawcett and his claimed ownership of an Andy Warhol portrait of the actress. A judge ruled Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that a former caregiver for Fawcett can testify about a conversation in which she says the actress told her that a Warhol portrait that is at the center of the ownership dispute belonged to O’Neal. The actor is seeking to keep the artwork while Fawcett’s alma mater the University of Texas at Austin is suing to obtain the 1980 portrait. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — One of Farrah Fawcett's caregivers will be allowed to testify that the late actress told her an Andy Warhol portrait hanging in her home was owned by Ryan O'Neal.
The artwork's ownership is at the center of dispute between the Oscar-nominated actor and Fawcett's alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin.
Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin ruled that Maribel Avila should be allowed to testify in the case despite the fact she stepped forward as a possible witness just last month. Avila was a nurse's assistant who worked for Fawcett in 2006 and 2007 while the actress was battling cancer.
Avila recounted to MacLaughlin that Fawcett told her a Warhol portrait that hung outside her bedroom door belonged to O'Neal, who was her longtime partner. Avila said she hadn't heard about the lawsuit over the artwork until reading about it in the New York Post last month.
FILE - This March 5, 1989 file photo shows actors Ryan O'Neal, left, and Farrah Fawcett at the premiere of the film. "Chances Are," in New York. A judge ruled Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that a former caregiver for Fawcett can testify about a conversation in which she says the actress told her an Andy Warhol portrait that is at the center of an ownership dispute belonged to O’Neal. The actor is seeking to keep the artwork while Fawcett’s alma mater the University of Texas at Austin is suing to obtain the 1980 portrait. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, file)
She contacted O'Neal's lawyers, who want to use her as a witness in their case. She is expected to testify before jurors next week.
Eric Nichols, an attorney for the University of Texas, argued that jurors shouldn't hear Avila's testimony because O'Neal's lawyers should have known she worked for Fawcett and tried to interview her earlier.
MacLaughlin disagreed, saying he would allow Avila to testify because she came forward as soon as she learned about the case and realized she had pertinent information.
Fawcett created a trust that left all of her artwork to the university after her death. The school sued O'Neal, claiming the actor improperly removed the portrait from Fawcett's condominium after her 2009 death and should be forced to relinquish the art.
O'Neal has testified that he negotiated a deal with Warhol to allow Fawcett to pose for a portrait in 1980 on the condition that each actor would receive a version of it. One of the portraits was given to the university and is displayed in its Blanton Museum of Art.