Octavia Spencer and Sensa embroiled in lawsuit

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A weight loss company wants a judge to dismiss half the claims in a lawsuit by Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer, who alleges the company is blaming her for an unsuccessful advertising campaign and owes her $700,000.

Spencer, 43, won her best supporting actress Oscar the 2011 movie “The Help.” She and her company, Orit Entertainment Inc., sued Sensa Products Inc. Aug. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Sensa is sprinkled onto food like salt or sugar to enhance the specific scents of food while making one believe he or she has had enough to eat.

In court papers filed Friday on behalf of Sensa Products, attorney Eunice Ko says the case is at most a breach-of-contract case and that Spencer’s claims for fraud and breach of good faith and fair dealing should be thrown out. The suit also seeks an accounting of Sensa products.

“There is plenty to litigate in this complaint already,” Ko’s court papers state. “The fraud and implied covenant claims piled on for drama effect have no business in this case.”

Ko’s court papers also state that the two claims are meant to “smear” Sensa Products’ name with press releases to the media concurrent with the commencement of this litigation.”

Just 45 minutes after the court filing window opened the day Spencer sued, a story about the case was posted on the Internet, Ko’s court papers state.

According to Spencer’s lawsuit, she passed on a $3 million offer from another firm in order to sign a $1.25 million deal with Sensa because the company agreed to conditions including an ad campaign that focused on a healthier lifestyle rather than her weight loss and the use of before-and-after photos.

But the actress alleges that after she lived up to her end of the bargain and lost 20 pounds, Sensa began trying to find ways to avoid paying her. The actress included “#spon” (sponsored) at the end of her messages, which Sensa later claimed undermined the ad campaign, her suit states.

But according to Ko’s court papers, Spencer and Sensa agreed on the terms of the actress’ endorsement deal in August 2012. After Spencer allegedly breached deadlines in January of this year, the agreement was amended to allow Sensa to request Spencer’s approval for use of the before-and-after photos and to mention in ads that she lost 20 pounds, Ko’s court papers state.

“Before-and-after photos are important to the success of marketing campaigns for weight loss companies and this particular provision was a critical concession by the plaintiffs to keep Sensa Products from leaving the relationship,” Ko’s court papers state.

Spencer also was obligated under the amended agreement to “use her reasonable good faith efforts to display, promote and endorse the (Sensa) products, including … mentioning (her) 20-pound weight loss using the Sensa weight loss system,” according to Ko’s court papers.

A hearing on the Sensa motion is scheduled Dec. 2 before Judge Michael Stern.

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