In 1974 at the age of 13, Moran was cast to play her best known role, Joanie Cunningham on the sitcom Happy Days. She played the feisty younger sister of Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard). Moran continued the role in 1982 in the short-lived spin-off series Joanie Loves Chachi, alongside Scott Baio. She won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a New Television Series for her role. After Joanie Loves Chachi‘s cancellation in 1983, she returned to Happy Days for its final season.
On April 19, 2011, Moran and three of her Happy Days co-stars, Don Most, Anson Williams, and Marion Ross, and the estate of Tom Bosley, who died in 2010, filed a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS, which owns the show. The suit claimed that cast members had not been paid for merchandising revenues owed under their contracts. Revenues included those from show-related items such as comic books, T-shirts, scrapbooks, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, dolls, toy cars, magnets, greeting cards, and DVDs where cast members’ images appear on the box covers. Under the actors’ contracts, they were supposed to be paid five percent from the net proceeds of merchandising if a single actor’s image was used, and half that amount if the cast members were pictured in a group. CBS said it owed the actors between $8,500 and $9,000 each, most of it from slot machine revenues, but the group said they were owed millions. The lawsuit was initiated after Ross was informed by a friend playing slots at a casino of a “Happy Days” machine on which players won the jackpot when five Marion Rosses were rolled.
In October 2011, a judge rejected the group’s fraud claim, which eliminated the possibility of millions of dollars in damages. On June 5, 2012, a judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by CBS, which meant the case would go to trial on July 17 if it was not settled by then. In July 2012, the actors settled their lawsuit with CBS. Each received a payment of $65,000 and a promise by CBS to continue honoring the terms of their contracts.[20
Personal life and death
After Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi were canceled, Moran moved from Los Angeles to the California mountains and revealed in a 1988 interview that she suffered from depression and was unable to gain acting roles. Moran confirmed news reports that her California home was foreclosed on in 2010, following media claims that she was also served eviction papers and moved into her mother-in-law’s trailer home in Indiana. In 2017, Variety magazine said she “had fallen on hard times in recent years. She was reportedly kicked out of her trailer park home in Indiana because of her hard-partying ways”.