Woman sues Netflix for $170m over Baby Reindeer character

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A woman who allegedly inspired the character Martha in the hit Netflix drama Baby Reindeer is suing the streamer for defamation, negligence and privacy violations.

Fiona Harvey, a UK lawyer who says Martha is based on her, argues in a lawsuit filed in a California court on Thursday that Netflix told “brutal lies” about her to over 50 million viewers around the world.

The lawsuit seeks over $170m (£132m) in damages for Ms Harvey, who claims the Baby Reindeer series falsely depicted her as a convicted criminal who spent time in prison for stalking.

Netflix did not immediately respond to BBC’s request for comment.

Ms Harvey also refutes that she sexually assaulted the show’s creator, according to the court documents, which allege that Netflix “told these lies, and never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories made money”.

In one scene in the series, the Martha character is depicted as sexually assaulting the show’s protagonist along a canal one night.

Speaking to BBC News on Thursday, Ms Harvey said she was certain that Netflix would lose the case.

“I have no doubt about that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it. We think we are going to win,” she said.

The first episode of the hit mini-series claims that “this is a true story”.

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

While giving evidence before the Culture Media and Sport Committee in Parliament last month, Netflix executive Benjamin King said the show was “obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker”.

Mr Gadd, a comedian, wrote and stars in the series about his alleged experience of being stalked by a woman he met at the pub where he worked.

He is not named as a defendant in Ms Harvey’s lawsuit.

Neither Mr Gadd nor Ms Harvey’s real names are used in the series.

On social media, Mr Gadd has previously appealed to fans to refrain from trying to identify Martha, the stalker character he first described in a stand-up comedy routine.

Ms Harvey has identified herself as the woman portrayed as Martha in the series. Netflix and Mr Gadd have not confirmed this.

Ms Harvey’s lawsuit alleges that Netflix “did literally nothing” to confirm that Mr Gadd’s story was true before creating the series.

“It never investigated whether Harvey was convicted, a very serious misrepresentation of the facts,” the complaint states, referring to the character Martha’s prior conviction for stalking.

“It did nothing to understand the relationship between Gadd and Harvey, if any. It did nothing to determine whether other facts, including an assault, the alleged stalking or the conviction was accurate.”

Richard Roth, a New York-based lawyer representing Ms Harvey, told BBC News on Thursday that he has “incontrovertible documentary evidence” proving that his client has never been convicted of a crime.

The lawsuit includes a photo of a background check and a certificate that claims that Ms Harvey has no criminal convictions on her record.

Martha, the Baby Reindeer character, is a convicted stalker who is later arrested after Mr Gadd’s character reports her to police.

Mr Roth added that there is “no doubt” whatsoever Ms Harvey’s identity was used for Baby Reindeer’s plot.

Ms Harvey, who lives in the UK, says that since the series was released in April she has received numerous death threats.

The experience has left her “fearful of leaving her home or checking the news”, the lawsuits says, adding that she has “become extremely secluded and isolated, in fear of the public, going days without leaving her home”.

In a nearly hour-long interview with Piers Morgan last month, Ms Harvey confirmed that she had known Mr Gadd during his time working at a pub in London.

But she denied that she had acted like the character Martha, who sends Mr Gadd’s character 41,000 emails and leaves 350 hours of voicemail messages in the show.

“None of that’s true. I don’t think I sent him anything,” she said.

“No, I think there may have been a couple of emails exchanged, but that was it. Just jokey banter emails.”

The lawsuit does allege, however, that real comments that she made to Mr Gadd – such as a tweet she sent him in 2014 – are used in the show’s dialogue.



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