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Woman sues Netflix for defamation over 'Baby Reindeer' character

Woman sues Netflix for defamation over Baby Reindeer character
Woman sues Netflix for defamation over Baby Reindeer character Copyright Netflix
Copyright Netflix
By Euronews with AP
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A woman alleged to be the inspiration for the stalker in hit Netflix series 'Baby Reindeer' is suing the streaming platform for $170 million (€156 million).

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A woman who claims she is the inspiration for the relentless stalker at the center of Netflix's hit series Baby Reindeer is suing the streaming giant for defamation and is seeking at least $170 million (approx. €156 million) in damages. 

Fiona Harvey, 58, a Scottish attorney living in England who says the character Martha is clearly based on her, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles that also alleges that Netflix was negligent, intentionally subjected her to emotional distress and violated her right to publicity. 

On the British black comedy based on a one-man stage show by Richard Gadd, Gadd plays Donny, who offers Martha a cup of tea in the pub he works in. From that one cup of tea, things spiral wildly out of control as Martha becomes a stalker who sends him tens of thousands of emails, tweets at him hundreds of times, and ends up sexually assaulting him. 

None of this actually happened, according to the lawsuit. 

“The lies that Defendants told about Harvey to over 50 million people worldwide include that Harvey is a twice-convicted stalker who was sentenced to five years in prison, and that Harvey sexually assaulted Gadd,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants told these lies, and never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories made money.” 

Netflix responded with a statement saying, “We intend to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.” 

The show's end credits say that it "is based on real events: however certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes”. 

The lawsuit alleges the streamer did nothing to determine whether the stalking, assault, and convictions were accurate, nor did it do anything to understand the actual relationship between Harvey and Gadd. 

“Netflix and Gadd destroyed her reputation, her character and her life,” the lawsuit says. 

The show premiered on Netflix in April, and Harvey publicly came forward. In an interview with journalist Piers Morgan last month, Harvey said she was "forced" to do so after receiving online death threats from "internet sleuths".

Indeed, the lawsuit states that viewers and British media outlets had already identified her, and they have tormented her constantly since. This was possible, according to the lawsuit, because on the show Martha creates social media posts identical to searchable posts by Harvey, including one in which she says, “my curtains need hung badly,” which is used as a sexual euphemism on the show. 

The lawsuit also alleges that Harvey bears an “uncanny resemblance” to Martha, saying her “accent, manner of speaking and cadence” are “indistinguishable.” 

The lawsuit says that the series' claim at the beginning of its first episode that it's a true story is “the biggest lie in television history” and that its defamation of Harvey is “at a magnitude and scale without precedent.” 

Harvey is seeking all profits from Baby Reindeer and asks that punitive and other damages be awarded that would total at least $170 million.

Video editor • Ines Trindade Pereira

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