Netflix TV channel owner accused of defamation fails in court

By Shaun Walker Business reporter, BBC News Netflix and parent company Liberty Global were told in court the process had a “shadowy procedural” history The billionaire who led a legal battle with Netflix over…

Netflix TV channel owner accused of defamation fails in court

By Shaun Walker

Business reporter, BBC News

Netflix and parent company Liberty Global were told in court the process had a “shadowy procedural” history The billionaire who led a legal battle with Netflix over an award-winning documentary series has lost his bid to have a defamation restraining order imposed on the streaming company. Carole Baskin, whose real name is Pamela Ewing, sued Netflix and parent company Liberty Global after claiming they published an article suggesting she was involved in the stripping of Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte in Rio. During their campaign, lawyers for the companies claimed Ms Baskin was a serial liar, motivated by money and did not warrant a protective order. Miss Baskin, 71, from Minnesota, was seeking damages for “harassment, aggravated, malicious, libelous, defamatory and grossly misinforming” of her character. Carole Baskin’s lawyers had argued that Netflix and Liberty Global were completely outside the judicial process and were being used to subvert it. But a jury in Minneapolis, where the case was heard, rejected her application and instead awarded Ms Baskin damages for distress and lost income. It was unclear in legal terms whether the order should be confidential or made public for the reasons explained in the press release that was released afterwards. Such proceedings are confidential in the US and in the UK. Netflix, which received £51m for exclusive subscription rights to the streaming rights to the series before it debuted, praised the jury for its “diligence”. ‘Distress and suffering’ “The Judge rendered his decision after hearing arguments of the case,” the company said in a statement. “It is important that all of our members and potential members be able to view our programming without interference by third parties, including this plaintiff. “We thank all of the lawyers involved in this process, who had the courage to stand up to a wealthy, sensationalist and wholly unconvincing plaintiff.” In its statement, Netflix added: “We appreciate the nine members of the jury’s verdict. If, at some future time, this lawsuit ever had to go to trial, we would expect it to present a significant amount of distress and suffering for Ms Baskin and her family. “While we believe the district court made an appropriate ruling to preserve the privacy rights of our members, we hope the judge will take notice of the dozens of supportive and welcoming letters we received during this case, and resolve this issue in our favour.” Previously, Ms Baskin’s lawyers had argued that she had been working with media company Peter Walker Associates to enter the same “Gulfstream G-250 jet as Ryan Lochte”, following her conversations with the series’ director Chris French. Also, they said Mr French’s email from their alleged dialogue, in which Ms Baskin requests a “long list of requests to make [Ryan Lochte] comfortable”, was incongruous with Mr French’s apparent description of Ms Baskin as a “very dignified” woman. The documents also stated that Ms Baskin attempted to help represent Mr Lochte in a deal for a movie and book deal and had met with film production company Film Department over a possible film. However, Ms Baskin said that these activities were “a way of masking her true motives”. The TV series Tiger King was described by Ms Baskin’s lawyers as “a well-loved” documentary series, based on the early years of Formula 1 racing. Ms Baskin’s lawyers also claimed that Mr French had a business relationship with Ms Baskin’s nephew, Bentley Ehlers, a former NBA basketball player who has also appeared in the film. In February, Mr French described Ms Baskin’s lawsuit as a “horrible, nasty thing” and a “disgrace”.

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