The Rosie O'Donnell Show was sued for $3 million on Wednesday by a 71-year-old widow who alleges she was hit in the mouth by a hard rubber ball while attending a taping of the defunct television program. Lucille DeBellis of Hartsdale, N.Y., claims in the suit, filed in Manhattan supreme court, that while attending a taping of the show in November 2001, she was struck in the mouth by a ball thrown by a member of O'Donnell's staff. The suit alleges the ball was "recklessly and negligently shot" in the audience using an apparatus similar to a sling-shot. It further alleges that over the next several hours she experienced pain and swelling in her lips and mouth and that ultimately small lumps appeared in her mouth.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show has been off the air for a year. The practice of throwing rubber balls at the audience began in June 1996 and was a daily fixture on the show. The show's distributor, Warner Bros., also named in the suit along with its parent company, AOL Time Warner Inc., declined to comment on the suit.
For months after the incident, DeBellis claims she had to undergo painful cortisone injections in an attempt to make the lumps dissipate. She says she was also forced to take antibiotics and steroid medication, which caused her to have "extreme stomach discomfort." "Furthermore, the pain and soreness around [her] mouth adversely affected her relationship with her boyfriend," the lawsuit says.