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May 28, 2017

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Tom Cruise lawsuit could make private public

LOS ANGELES--It can be true in medicine and Tom Cruise may find it's true in law: Sometimes, the cure is worse than the disease.

The "Top Gun" and "Mission: Impossible" star filed a US$50-million defamation lawsuit Wednesday against the publishers of Life & Style Weekly and In Touch magazines for twice alleging the actor had "abandoned" his daughter Suri.

But as people familiar with litigation know, Cruise runs the risk of turning his private life into a very open book. To prove that the tabloid's allegations were false and defamatory, Cruise may have to answer any number of questions, under oath, about himself and his parenting. He might even be asked about his past relationship with ex-wife Nicole Kidman and the children from that marriage, as well as his religious beliefs, according to libel and defamation lawyers not involved in the case.

"Plaintiffs who initiate actions like this have to go in with their eyes wide open because it may not be a very pleasant experience," said Charles L. Babcock, a Houston attorney who specializes in defending media companies in 1st Amendment cases.

Cruise earlier this year narrowly avoided seeing a court case open a window into his marriage. When Katie Holmes filed for divorce in June, their split had the potential to expose the couple's finances, their pre-nuptial agreement and their custody arrangements, among other things. But the couple settled the split privately, with no paper trail. A source with knowledge of the case said at the time that the settlement was made so that none of the terms would be contained in publicly available documents, a practice that is fairly common in such cases.

As part of their defense in the new defamation case, lawyers for the magazine can (and doubtlessly will) seek to depose Cruise, and in addition to his live questioning under penalty of perjury could also ask to depose ex-wife Holmes, who is 6-year-old Suri's mother. What's more, Cruise and Holmes could be asked to produce documents and answer written questions, called interrogatories, about Cruise's relationship with his daughter and how much time they spent together, the lawyers said.

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