Nicollette Sheridan was not wrongfully sacked from TV's Desperate Housewives, a US appeals court has ruled.
But the British actress should be allowed to pursue claims that she was retaliated against for complaining that the show's creator struck her, a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said.
The Los Angeles court agreed with lawyers for ABC and Touchstone Television that Sheridan, 48, left the show when her contract was not renewed after the series' fifth season - and that barred her from receiving a new trial of her wrongful termination action.
"Sheridan cannot pursue a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy because, contrary to what she claims, she was not fired, discharged or terminated," the court said in a 10-page ruling.
The court, however, ruled that Sheridan should be allowed to file an amended lawsuit claiming retaliation, although damages would be limited to her salary losses.
Adam Levin, a lawyer for ABC and Touchstone, said he expected the companies would win again if Sheridan kept pursuing the case. Sheridan's lawyer Mark Baute did not return a message seeking comment.
The ruling was the latest twist in Sheridan's case, which was first filed in April 2010. She later claimed she was sacked after complaining that series creator Marc Cherry struck in the head during an on-set argument.
Mr Cherry and ABC denied the accusation and a judge threw out the battery claim against Mr Cherry. In March, jurors were deadlocked after a two-week trial on her wrongful termination case, with the panel siding 8-4 in favour of the actress.
Desperate Housewives concluded its eight-season run this year. Sheridan received 4.2 million dollars (£2.6m) on her last season of the series and the studio had options to renew her contract to play the character Edie Britt through the seventh season.
Mr Baute argued that she had recently received a rise and a share of the show's profits but fell out of favour with Mr Cherry and other show executives after complaining about his conduct.