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Oprah's Mother, Fashion Store Settle Bill Dispute

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JSOnline: Oprah Winfrey's mother and the high-end fashion store that sued her over a $155,547 debt have settled the lawsuit.

oprah vernita lee

Details of the settlement between Vernita Lee of Milwaukee and the store, Valentina Inc., have not been filed yet in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

When the settlement agreement is entered, it will remain secret. However, the deal involves Valentina receiving a partial payment for what it said it was owed.

"We're happy with what transpired. It's over," said Tony Chirchirillo, Valentina co-owner. "We can get on with our lives, they can get on with theirs."

Chirchirillo declined to release details of the settlement, as did his attorney, Joseph C. Niebler Sr. Michelle Schindler, one of the attorneys representing Lee, declined to comment Monday.

Judge Ralph Ramirez has scheduled the case for possible dismissal on Dec. 7.

Valentina, which had a store in Brookfield, sued Lee in July 2008, contending that she racked up a bill of $155,547.31 in purchases and interest as of July 1 of that year. She was required to make a minimum monthly payment of $2,000, the suit says.

Attorneys for Lee countered in court documents that Lee should not have to pay Valentina because the store extended credit despite knowing her troubles managing debt.

In 2002, Lee was ordered to pay $35,000 upfront and make monthly payments of $5,000 until another past-due bill of $174,285 was paid, according to court records.

As part of the resolution of that case, a court order dismissing the case included the phrase, "Valentina Boutique, Inc., shall not at any time extend further store credit to the Defendant, Vernita Lee."

The 2002 case was dismissed as long as Lee made the payments, which she did, according to the counterclaim.

Niebler said the settlement in the latest case was amicable and that neither side admitted any wrongdoing.

Valentina moved from the Brookfield location this year to Milwaukee's Third Ward and changed its name to Falcon. It also has a Valentina store in Mequon.


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