Netflix to fight $170 million damages claim over ‘Baby Reindeer’

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Netflix said on Friday it will fight a multimillion-dollar claim for damages brought by a Scottish woman who alleges she was defamed by the global hit show “Baby Reindeer.”

Fiona Harvey is seeking a jury trial and damages totaling $170 million for “mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of business,” according to a complaint filed in the District Court for the Central District of California.

In the Netflix (NFLX) miniseries, comedian Richard Gadd recounts the “true story” of being stalked by a woman who bombards him with more than 40,000 emails and hundreds of hours of voice messages.

“Baby Reindeer” has topped most-watched lists worldwide since its debut in April, generating headlines and speculation about the characters and who inspired them. Harvey, who was quickly tracked down by online sleuths who labeled her the “real Martha Scott,” appeared on the YouTube show “Piers Morgan Uncensored” last month to say her life had been ruined.

Her complaint lists Netflix and Netflix Worldwide Entertainment as defendants. It also names Gadd, who stars in the seven-part miniseries as struggling comedian Donny Dunn.

The document alleges that the defendants and Gadd told the “biggest lie in television history” by claiming the story is true.

It says Netflix and Gadd lied “out of greed and lust” to make money, and to “viciously destroy” the life of Harvey, “an innocent woman defamed … at a magnitude and scale without precedent.”

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Netflix said: “We intend to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.”

Gadd first recounted his experience with an alleged stalker at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, before Netflix commissioned the miniseries in 2021. In an essay for Netflix, he said the situation was “messy” and “complicated,” but he believed the story needed to be told.

On Thursday, Gadd and Jessica Gunning, who plays Scott, appeared on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” to talk about the thriller’s huge success.

“It’s just had this sort of almost cross-cultural success that I never expected, because it’s so singular and it’s very idiosyncratic, it’s very London, and it’s such an odd story, a weird traumatic story,” Gadd said. He has yet to comment publicly on the court action.

Gadd previously told UK newspaper The Guardian the story is “very emotionally true … But we wanted it to exist in the sphere of art, as well as protect the people it’s based on.”

His repeated requests, however, for viewers to cease trying to find out the real-life identities of the figures in his story went unheard.

Harvey’s complaint alleges Netflix made no effort to confirm any of the purported facts in the show, including that Gadd’s alleged stalker was sentenced to five years in prison for stalking. In the show, Gunning’s character is also seen sexually assaulting Gadd.

In the complaint, Harvey said within a few days of the show airing she began to receive messages, including death threats, identifying her as Gadd’s alleged stalker.

The document claims that as a result of the show, Harvey is fearful of leaving her home or checking the news.

“She has and continues to experience anxiety, nightmares, panic attacks, shame, depression, nervousness, stomach pains, loss of appetite and fear, extreme stress and sickness all directly caused by the lies told about her,” the document says.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.