March 11, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

Katie Holmes‘ tabloid battle is moving out of the supermarket checkout lane and into the courtroom. On March 1, Holmes, 32, filed a lawsuit against the owners of Star magazine, claiming their Jan. 31 cover story — billed as ”Katie’s DRUG SHOCKER!” — was libelous. Despite the sensational headline, the text of the article was far more benign, focusing on the actress’ use of the Church of Scientology’s E-Meter, a device that can supposedly produce endorphins, rather than anything pharmacological. But that distinction may not get them off the hook. ”It would be clear to the average reader that the accusations were that she is suffering some form of drug abuse or drug addiction,” says famed trial lawyer L. Lin Wood, who has gone to court against Star in the past. ”If that’s false, as she alleges in her complaint, then I think the case is actionable and has merit.” However, Wood goes on to say, the likelihood that Holmes would take home the full amount of compensation she is seeking — $50 million — is not high. ”I’m not sure that decisions are made in Hollywood about hiring actors based on allegations in the tabloids,” he says. ”So I’m not sure she’ll be able to demonstrate that much of an economic loss.” Though, between reputational and punitive damages, Wood believes she could reap ”a significant seven-figure award” were she to win. A lawyer for Star tells EW they were ”surprised” that Holmes filed the lawsuit and they believe the suit is ”without merit.”

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