Caitlin Sánchez, the former voice of Dora the Explorer who sued Nickelodeon in 2010 after getting fired from the channel for getting too old, is making headlines again.
Sánchez’s family claims the lawyer that represented her in the Nickelodeon case, John Balestriere, “duped” them big time, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The family alleges the attorney put Sánchez into a situation the left her owing major tax payments and lawyer contingency fees, leaving her penniless.
Now, Sánchez wants to undo the mess her attorney made and continue her lawsuit against Nickelodeon and MTV Networks, she says.
In October of 2010, Sánchez claimed the network cheated her out of millions of dollars by underpaying her for work on the groundbreaking children's cartoon series.
While she made $5,115 per episode, Caitlin Sánchez, 16, didn't get the fees she was due for reruns, recordings for DVDs and other Dora products and hundreds of hours of promotional work, she and her family claimed in the lawsuit.
"They took advantage of her," Balestriere said at the time.
Nickelodeon had claimed Caitlin's claims were baseless, and her contract was extensively negotiated.
"She was well-compensated for her work and for personal appearances," network spokesman David Bittler said.
"Dora The Explorer" has become a cartoon icon and a cultural force. And she's also a brand that averages 1.9 million viewers for each episode and has generated more than $11 billion in sales of related toys, books and DVDs worldwide since 2002.
Sánchez, the voice of Dora from 2007 to 2010, claimed in the lawsuit that she was pressured into signing an unfair contract without consulting a lawyer, and then was subjected to "three and a half years of exploitation and lies," according to her suit.
THR reports that both parties came to an agreement and a settlement came before the disagreement went to court.
Court documents show Sánchez received about $500,000 from the settlement. She also received 5 percent of royalties on future merchandise sales and was guaranteed that she would be able to continue doing voiceovers, getting paid at the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) rate.
Now Sánchez’s family says that they are no longer happy and that they were manipulated into taking a deal they were not comfortable with.
Sánchez claims Balestriere falsely notarize his signature on the settlement papers and manipulated them into signing a document entitling him to 37.5 percent of the royalties including future royalties, and a $755 an hour billable rate which he called a “success fee.”
She also claims Balestriere made threats against them, and they paid him $300,000 because they thought they had no other choice.
"That (tax) liability zeroes out what little settlement Mr. Balestriere gave to Caitlin after he took his excessive fees and disbursements never approved by this Court," THR quotes Sánchez’s mother as saying in a in June, 2011.
As for Balestriere, he says he did nothing but help the Sánchez family.
"My colleagues and I were glad to fight for Caitlin Sánchez and her family when they were not given their due by Nickelodeon," Balestriere told THR.
"We obtained an excellent result for Ms. Sánchez, in fairly short order, where our firm largely bore the financial risk, and where the court who approved the settlement has repeatedly praised the result our work obtained."
Sánchez and her family have been trying to overturn the settlement but have had no such luck.