The hit Netflix series ‘Baby Reindeer’ has triggered a lawsuit for defamation, negligence and privacy violations. that could significantly affect the way television is made.

The series has become the latest high profile legal case for Netflix with Fiona Harvey, from Scotland, filing a £133m ($170m) law suit against Netflix in California, accusing the company of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, gross negligence and violations of her right of publicity.

The sum includes totals for damages, “loss of enjoyment and loss of business” plus “all profits from Baby Reindeer”. Netflix has said that it intends “to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by writer Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story”.

Experts believe the decision to bill ‘Baby Reindeer’ as “a true story” was reckless and if they had added “based on” to that description it would have offered more defence against legal action.

With Harvey launching this latest case, it is predicted more comprehensive disclaimers will be used to try and head off similar actions. Richard Roth, a New York-based lawyer representing Ms Harvey, told the BBC there was “no doubt” that Ms Harvey’s identity was used for Baby Reindeer’s plot.

Gadd played himself in the series which revolved around the impact a stalker had on him with Harvey claiming to be the inspiration for the character of Martha. Harvey has denied she stalked Gadd and sent him over 40,000 emails, as depicted in the show.

Harvey was targeted online by fans of the show who wanted to find the person they believed was the “real” stalker in the series. As a result of the online pressure and publicity, Harvey threatened to sue Netflix for defamation and gross negligence. This has now happened.

In 2022, Netflix settled when Queen’s Gambit saw the company sued by a female chess grandmaster and it is currently being sued by a Vanity Fair photo editor over her portrayal in Inventing Anna. Netflix has also settled a defamation case taken up by a former Manhattan prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, after her unfavourable portrayal in the 2019 miniseries When They See Us led to her being dropped by her publishers. The settlement cost Netflix $1m.

W Denis arrange specialist insurance for Defamation, Libel and Slander, not just for media organisations but for many types of commercial and professional organisations. Typical insurance coverage available for Media Organisations includes Professional Indemnity Insurance including indemnity against liability for breach of professional duty, any form of defamation, intellectual property infringement as well as breach of confidence. Policies can be additionally extended to include the costs incurred in investigations by authorities and regulators, defending against criminal actions, restoring or replacing lost documents as well as PR and crisis costs following a claim.

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