By peoplestaff225
October 21, 2003 01:55 AM

The dissolution of the 16-month marriage between Liza Minnelli and her fourth husband, producer-promoter David Gest, took another ugly turn Tuesday when Gest slapped Minnelli with a $10 million lawsuit accusing her of abusing alcohol and physically injuring him, according to court papers obtained by PEOPLE.

In legal papers filed Tuesday in New York’s Superior Court, Gest calls himself “a victim of domestic violence” and says Minnelli — at the time of their marriage on March 16, 2002 — was “an alcoholic, overweight, unable to be effectively merchandised (and unable to) get insurance to perform concert dates on stage, or in any other artistic media.”

(Read the complete lawsuit here.)

Minnelli released a statement on Wednesday responding to the lawsuit, saying, “I hoped very much that the end of my marriage would be handled with mutual respect and dignity. The allegations in this lawsuit are hurtful and without merit. My lawyers will respond to the lawsuit in the proper forum. I will continue to focus on my work, my sobriety and my friends and fans who have been so wonderful to me.”

Gest and Minnelli separated in July.

The suit, filed on Gest’s behalf by celebrity divorce attorney Raoul Felder, also cites a June 2002 incident involving Minnelli in London, where Gest says she poured the contents of an entire vodka bottle into a water bottle, after she got a friend to purchase the liquor for her. Her consumption of the vodka resulted in Minnelli “berating him” and “beating (Gest) about the head and face with her fists without relenting,” he claims.

While Gest says he attempted to protect himself by covering his face with his arms, while “not desiring to injure defendant … The alcohol gave her remarkable force and strength.” Gest claims he suffered “from increasingly excruciating pain in his head for the remainder of the night.”

Similar abusive, alcohol-fueled incidents are cited in the 14-page complaint as having occurred throughout their marriage. Gest, 50, also claims he wasn’t the only one subjected to harm by Minnelli, 57. A production manager, Steven Benanav, was nearly strangled by the star, the papers allege. “She’s stronger than any woman I’ve ever seen,” Benanav is quoted as saying after an August 2002 encounter.

Gest also says a drunken Minnelli slipped and fell in a hotel bathroom, hitting her eye, and that in September 2002 he was forced to help her “cover up” the incident by telling the New York Post that Minnelli “had had a ‘cancerous’ growth removed from under one of her eyes.”

Gest claims that because of “sustained severe injuries about the head” delivered by Minnelli, he continues to suffer “from virtually constant, unrelenting pain” that requires “11 prescription medications per day, some more than once, to treat the pain and injury.”

As a result, says the suit, Gest has been unable to travel to conduct his business, “on doctor’s orders.”

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