Fashion store says Oprah's mom owes $155K

A high-end Brookfield fashion store is suing over a past due bill of more than $150,000 bill run up by a customer whose perks, it says, included private showings and delivery service. The customer: Oprah Winfrey's mother.

Vernita Lee, of Milwaukee, has had an open-ended charge account with Valentina Inc. since January 2004, the civil complaint says. She has hired three attorneys to prove she doesn't owe the bill, according to the lawsuit filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, which was first reported by columnist Pete Kennedy in the Waukesha Freeman, says Lee racked up a bill of $155,547.31 in purchases and interest as of July 1. Lee was required to make a minimum monthly payment of $2,000 to the store, court records show.

Valentina attorney Joseph Niebler, Sr., said today that at some point Lee stopped making the monthly payments. The store is asking for full payment plus interest, the complaint says.

Niebler said the store tried to resolve the bill before filing the lawsuit and continues to pursue a resolution out of court.

"There isn't any ill will, it's a matter of contract," Niebler said.

Reached by telephone, Lee declined to comment about the case. Winfrey and Lee lived in Milwaukee during part of Oprah's childhood.

Two Chicago-based attorneys, Steve Gistenson and Michelle Schindler, have been brought into the case to assist Milwaukee-based attorney Nathan Fishbach in defending Lee.

Lee has until a Sept. 19 hearing to answer the complaint. A non-binding mediation session is scheduled for Sept. 16, court records say.

Under Lee's preferred client account, she was afforded private showings, advance notice of sales and special events and delivery service.



First post! Be nice, bbs!