Netflix faces $US170 million ‘Baby Reindeer’ defamation lawsuit

By Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Cast members Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning attend a photo call for the television series Baby Reindeer in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 7, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Cast members Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning attend a photo call for the television series Baby Reindeer in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 7, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Netflix was sued on Thursday for at least $US170 million by a Scottish woman who said she was defamed over her portrayal as a stalker in the hit mini-series 'Baby Reindeer'.

The plaintiff Fiona Harvey has publicly claimed to be the inspiration behind the character Martha, played by actress Jessica Gunning, who shares a physical resemblance and like her is a lawyer in London.

But in a complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, Harvey said Netflix and “Baby Reindeer” creator Richard Gadd went too far by suggesting through the show, which calls itself a “true story”, that she was a twice-convicted stalker who had been sentenced to five years in prison.

Harvey denied having stalked Gadd, who on the show plays a fictional version of himself named Donny Dunn, or having been convicted or imprisoned.

But she said many people couldn’t tell the difference, and thousands of Reddit and TikTok users talk about her as the “real” Martha.

“Defendants told these lies, and never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories made money,” the complaint said.

Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

READ MORE: Real comedy, real trauma: How Baby Reindeer and Feel Good are forging a new television genre

The lawsuit seeks at least $50 million each for actual damages, compensatory damages including mental anguish, and profits, plus at least $20 million of punitive damages.

Harvey sued two days after Netflix settled a defamation lawsuit by former prosecutor Linda Fairstein over her portrayal in “When They See Us”, a 2019 series about the Central Park Five rape case three decades earlier.

Netflix agreed to move a disclaimer that some characters may have been altered for dramatic purposes to the start of episodes from the closing credits. It also agreed to donate $1 million to a nonprofit that helps free wrongfully convicted people.

The case is Harvey v Netflix Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 24-04744.

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