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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Incredible Hulk’ actor sues daughter, claiming elder abuse amid messy family split

TV's Lou Ferrigno, his wife and his daughter have made multiple court filings with accusations ranging from extortion to abuse.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (CN) — Lou Ferrigno, the former professional bodybuilder who gained fame as TV’s green-faced Incredible Hulk, is suing his daughter, saying she has locked him out of the social media accounts that help him promote acting jobs, events and appearances.

But his daughter, Shanna Ferrigno, denied withholding any login credentials and noted that the filing is the latest of multiple court actions that have characterized a messy family split.

“This is just drama, and it’s really sad,” Shanna Ferrigno said. “I’m just really sickened by this.”

The complaint was filed Tuesday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court by Vatche Zetjian of the Los Angeles law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, accusing Shanna Ferrigno of elder abuse.

Ferrigno's lawyer said that the 72-year-old actor’s daughter has “taken the social media credentials hostage” and has “extorted plaintiff by demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars to turn over plaintiff’s social media credentials.”

In denying the extortion charge, Shanna Ferrigno said she spent 12 years building her famous father’s social media presence dramatically, for no pay — even though she had been promised money for her efforts.

“I used to spend five to six hours a day, on average, for free,” she said. “I pretty much was his publicist.”

While Zetjian acknowledged she helped her father with his social media, the attorney said she can pursue her complaints in a different manner. Instead, he said, she forced them to pursue legal action.

“She has a right to go her own direction, but she can’t say, ‘You can’t have your passwords’,” Zetjian said. “She knows it can financially hurt him.”

As a celebrity bodybuilder in the 1970s, Lou Ferrigno won Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles. But it was his loss to future actor and governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition that jumpstarted his Hollywood career, thanks to the 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron.”

That same year, Ferrigno was cast as the Hulk in “The Incredible Hulk” TV series, which aired through 1982. Since then, he has appeared in a variety of TV shows and movies, including “The Celebrity Apprentice,” “The King of Queens” and “I Love You, Man.”

He has been married to Carla Ferrigno, an actress and manager, since 1980, and the couple had three children together. In multiple court filings, filled with Hulk references, the family exchanged cross claims of abuse.

In a September petition to become sole trustee of the Ferrigno family trust, Lou Ferrigno claimed his wife is suffering from mental decline.

“Even the Hulk must cope with the challenges of life in caring for a spouse with advanced dementia,” he said in the petition.

Six days after that filing, Carla filed for divorce, with a domestic violence restraining order in which she claimed her spouse was abusive and controlling.

“I do not deny that I am not in the same condition as I was when I was younger, but I know what is going on around me, how Lou treats me, and that he is trying to ensure that I’m treated as completely incompetent so that he can use our estate and leave me to die,” declared Carla Ferrigno, who turned 75 Wednesday.

Carla Ferrigno claimed the 6-foot-5 actor would often intimidate her with his size, saying, “He will remind everyone that he is the Hulk.”

Carla Ferrigno said that her husband openly flaunts having a mistress but won’t agree to a divorce because he doesn’t want to give up half of his possessions, which includes an Arroyo Grande, California, home estimated to be worth close to $4 million, according to multiple real estate web sites.

Lou Ferrigno provided a doctor’s declaration to suggest Carla is unable to make important decisions, claiming their children are trying to make them for her.

“With Carla’s significant cognitive decline, the children opportunistically have tried to manipulate Carla and unduly influence her into believing Lou is trying to harm Carla,” he said in court filings.

Carla Ferrigno now lives with her daughter, Shanna, who said her father is upset because she is advocating for her mother in the divorce case.

Shanna Ferrigno has an entry on the IMDB website, mostly for producing, but she works primarily as a behavior and lifestyle coach.

She said she helped build her father’s large social media following — increasing his Facebook presence from around 30,000 to 2.7 million — but stopped helping him last year. While managing his accounts, she said, she posted on his behalf, interacted with fans and took photos for the sites.

“I was keeping his legacy going,” she said.

Once the divorce was filed, Lou Ferrigno claims, Shanna retaliated and refused to allow access to his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“Defendant’s conduct is tantamount to identity theft,” Lou Ferrigno claims in the suit, “in effectively erasing plaintiff from the social media spheres and eliminating his years of goodwill.”

Shanna Ferrigno said she has never refused to provide any login information. And her father, she said, could simply reach out to the social media platforms to gain access.

“Instead of attacking me, they should just go to Facebook,” she said.

Categories / Courts, Entertainment

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