Inventing Anna Defamation Case Against Netflix Can Go Forward


From today’s decisions in Williams v. Netflix, Inc. Chief Judge Colm Connolly Del.Netflix’s motion for dismissal is denied (for more background, see Here is a link to the article):

Plaintiff Rachel DeLoache Williams filed a lawsuit against Netflix, Inc. based off of Netflix’s portrayal Williams in their docudrama series Inventing Anna…. Two sets of alleged defamatory remarks are actionable on the motion for dismissal stage. Williams’s ninth set of alleged false statements is as follows:

After several scenes describing the problems with the hotel credit cards and the private museum visit, there’s a long scene where Noah is shown meeting Williams. He suggests to her they leave immediately due to the “bad situation.” Williams initially says that the problem is over and suggests they stay, but Noah insists and she caves in. She finds Anna alone in her bedroom, depressed and drinking heavily.

Williams tells her he is leaving, using a phony excuse. Williams leaves despite Sorokin’s pleas. She and Noah immediately pack up and leave the Hotel, leaving Sorokin with a hotel guard posted outside her bedroom.

Williams’ 10th set alleged defamatory comments reads:

Please, Rachel left Anna. She kicked her when she fell and left alone in a foreign land. Rachel’s happy to call herself Anna’s friend when it meant free shit, trips to Morocco, but as soon as times got tough … Some friend.

Williams claims that both statements were false and defamatory. Williams claims that Williams didn’t “abandon Sorokin”, when Sorokin, “alone, was depressed, and in trouble”, but that Williams had told Sorokin that she would be leaving in advance. She also claims that Sorokin wasn’t upset when Williams left. Williams claims that she is being defamed by the false portrayal of her as a friend who left Sorokin alone, depressed, and in trouble when she needed help in Morocco.[t]Williams does not possess these negative traits or attitudes.”

Netflix argues these statements are essentially true because

Plaintiff left Morocco before Sorokin went to France for vacation and work. Williams, who did not know that Sorokin had been a fraudster, also decided to give the relationship “some space” before learning of Sorokin’s deception. These scenes are therefore largely true. Debating whether this makes Williams “disloyal” cannot be proven to be true or false.

The above statements show more than just that Williams left Morocco before Sorokin, or that he wanted to give their relationship some space. Williams claims the statements prove that Williams abandoned Sorokin “when Sorokin alone, depressed and having trouble in Morocco.” Williams may have left Sorokin in a distressed state, but it is unclear whether Williams did so at that time. You can also read about how to get in touch with us. It can be proved true or false.

Netflix argues, alternatively, that the statements in the 9th and 10th set are not defamatory.

Plaintiff claims that these scenes are defamatory since they show Williams “abandon[ing] Sorokin ” in Morocco

It is not the case. Williams retorts when “Noah”, who is a character in the series, suggests they leave Morocco for safety reasons. She does not want to go. The Series shows Sorokin to be uncaring, unconcerned, and threatening as guards watch Williams and seem to threaten her. A reasonable viewer wouldn’t blame Williams or Noah for choosing to leave and taking their safety seriously. In this episode, Kacy refers to Williams both as “a good person” and “a real friend”, further eliminating any defamatory implications. While Neff criticizes Williams’s decision to leave, the journalist (based on Pressler), defends her by asking: “But can a friend charge a friend’s credit without permission?”

Netflix does not dispute the fact that the scenes depict Williams leaving Sorokin alone, depressed and in trouble. Netflix instead points to other scenes from the series to demonstrate that the 9th- and 10-th statements do not have a defamatory significance. In context, however, these scenes do not negate the portrayal of Williams leaving Sorokin a troubled man. They do not correct the statements that could be “exposed”.[ing] [Williams] To show public contempt, ridicule or aversion, or [to] Induce a bad opinion [her] … and [] deprive [her] The following are some examples of how to use [] Friendly intercourse is a term used to describe abandoning someone who is depressed or drinking heavily.

Williams has therefore made a defamation case under New York Law, at least for the 9th and 10th statements. And I need not decide at this stage of the pleadings whether the remaining alleged defamatory statements are actionable….


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