Jeopardy!: Mike Richards' "The Price is Right" Lawsuit Past Resurfaces

After over a dozen guest hosts stepped up and stepped in to honor the legendary Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and in some instances audition for the permanent job, Variety reported on Wednesday that Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards (host: Divided, The Pyramid) was "in advanced negotiations" with Sony Pictures TV to be the permanent host (though a final deal is not in place and discussions are still ongoing with "several potential candidates"). Now, Richards' involvement in two past lawsuits involving The Price is Right models, Brandi Cochran and Lanisha Cole, during his time producing the Bob Barker and Drew Carrey-hosted game show have some on social media questioning whether his name should still be considered for the permanent Jeopardy! hosting job.

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Mike Richards / Jeopardy! (Image: Screencap)

In November 2012, Cochran was awarded approximately $7.7M in compensatory and punitive damages by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury (later increased to $8.5M) after a 2010 lawsuit where Cochran claimed she was discriminated against by producers FremantleMedia North America and The Price Is Right Productions after becoming pregnant, eventually leading to her being terminated after eight years as a model on the long-running game show. In the lawsuit, Cochran claimed she put off attempting to get pregnant after observing how the defendants harassed others who had gotten pregnant during their time on the show. In 2007, Cochran was pregnant but delayed telling others at work out of fear of being fired.

After finally informing the producers, Cochran claimed that then-producer Richards began not talking to her as frequently as in the past and that he had implied she would've been one of the models fired had she not kept the pregnancy a secret for as long as she had. During the trial, Richards denied Cochran's claims of unfavorable treatment. Cochran also claimed that she was pressured to announce her pregnancy during one of the episodes and that the fallout from the news resulted in her being the target of jokes, having her work responsibilities reduced, and being removed from the show's website before eventually fired.

Then in 2013, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted a motion for a new trial after it was determined that the original jury was given bad instructions by the original judge. After Cochran's original win, the California Supreme Court issued a decision in mixed-motive discrimination cases that judges would need to instruct juries that discrimination is not just a "motivating factor/reason" for termination but a "substantial motivating factor/reason"- guidance which the original judge failed to issue to the jury hearing Cochran's case. 'The instruction error cannot be considered harmless," the judge explained about the decision granting a new trial. "Of central importance to the case was the weight given to discriminatory intent and whether that intent need only be of a mere motivating factor or a substantial factor. Given this central dispute, the failure to give the proper instruction regarding substantial factors cannot be considered harmless, and a new trial must be granted." In 2016, The Price is Right producers and Cochran would reach a settlement in the lawsuit, though no terms were revealed.

In 2011, Cole filed a lawsuit claiming she was repeatedly sexually harassed by the show's producers, naming Freemantle Media North America and then-producers Richards and Adam Sandler (not the actor). Cole's lawsuit alleged a hostile work environment that began in December 2009 (six years after she first started with the long-running game show) when Richards "suddenly and inexplicably" stopped talking to the model. Cole (who would resign from the job in December 2010) also alleged that Richards began showing favoritism towards another model he was having relations with, instituting policies "which never before existed" to limit her modeling work outside of the game show, other acts of abusive behavior. On April 4, 2013, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Debre Katz Weintraub would dismiss Richards from Cole's lawsuit. The following month, Cole's attorney, Solomon Gresen, filed a notice of settlement Friday with Judge Weintraub but details of the settlement were not made available.

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, Patch.com, CBS News, The New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times (blog)

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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