June 14, 2024

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Baby Reindeer: Woman sues Netflix for $170 million over Martha character

Baby Reindeer: Woman sues Netflix for $170 million over Martha character

Image source, Credit: Piers Morgan Uncensored

Comment on the photo, Fiona Harvey has appeared on Piers Morgan's Uncensored show after claims she inspired the character of Martha

  • author, Will Vernon and Max Matza
  • Role, BBC News

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

Fiona Harvey – who identified herself as the woman Martha was based on – argued in a lawsuit that Netflix told “monstrous lies” about her to more than 50 million viewers around the world.

The lawsuit, filed in a California court, seeks damages in excess of $170 million (£132 million) for Ms Harvey. She claims the Baby Reindeer series falsely portrayed her as a convicted felon who spent time in prison for stalking.

Netflix pledged to “vigorously defend this matter.”

She said she would uphold the right of the series' creator and star, Scottish comedian Richard Gadd, to “tell his story.”

Gad wrote the series about his alleged experience when he was stalked by a woman he met at the bar where he worked. He has previously implored fans to refrain from trying to identify with Martha, a character he first described in a comedy routine.

He was not named as a defendant in Ms. Harvey's lawsuit.

Neither Mr. Judd nor Ms. Harvey's real names were used in the series, and neither Netflix nor Mr. Judd have confirmed that Martha was inspired by Ms. Harvey.

While giving evidence to Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee last month, Netflix CEO Benjamin King said the show was “clearly a true story of the horrific abuse suffered by writer and protagonist Richard Judd at the hands of a convicted stalker”.

King was then challenged by an MP – John Nicholson of the Scottish National Party – to prove his statements. “Journalists were unable to find any evidence to support Netflix's claim” to convict the woman identified as Martha's inspiration, Nicholson said.

For its part, Ms. Harvey alleges in her suit that Netflix “did literally nothing” to confirm the veracity of Mr. Gadd’s story.

Harvey also denies that she sexually assaulted the series' creator, according to court documents, which allege Netflix “told these lies, and they never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories make money.”

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

Ms Harvey told BBC News on Thursday she was confident her team would win the case. “Otherwise we wouldn't have done it,” she added.

Richard Roth, the New York-based lawyer representing Ms Harvey, told the BBC that there was “no doubt” that Ms Harvey's identity was used in the Baby Reindeer plot.

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

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

The experience made her “afraid to leave her home or check the news,” the suit says, adding that she “became extremely withdrawn and isolated, fearful of the public, and would go days without leaving her home.”

In an interview lasting about an hour with Piers Morgan last month, Ms. Harvey confirmed that she knew Mr. Judd during his time working in a pub in London.

But she denied that she acted like her character Martha, who sends Jade's character 41,000 emails and leaves 350 hours of voicemails on the show.

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

“No, I think there might have been some emails back and forth, but that was it. Just prank emails.”

However, the lawsuit says some real comments she made to Mr. Gadd — such as a tweet she sent him in 2014 — are used in the show's dialogue.