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Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Three
February 26, 2007, Filed
KLEIN, P. J.—Defendants and appellants Helen Childress, Universal City Studios, Wind Down Films, Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher and Ben Stiller, appeal the denial of a special motion to strike plaintiff and respondent Troy Dyer's lawsuit for defamation and false light invasion of privacy as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. 1 We conclude the conduct at the heart of Dyer's lawsuit, the assertedly false portrayal of Dyer's persona in the movie Reality Bites, is not conduct in furtherance of defendants' exercise of their constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest. (§ 425.16, subd. (e)(4).) [***2] Consequently, we affirm the denial of defendants' special motion to strike.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Troy Dyer attended USC film school with defendant Helen Childress in the late 1980's. In 1990, Childress left school to work on a screenplay that became the movie Reality Bites (Jersey Films; Universal Pictures 1994), which was released in theaters in 1994. In the movie, Ethan Hawke portrays a rebellious slacker named Troy Dyer. The film addressed the issues facing Generation X in the 1990's. It was seen by more than 3 million [*1277] people in theatres, it has been released on videocassette and DVD, and has been exhibited on television.
In 2005, following the release of a tenth anniversary edition DVD of the film, Dyer sued Childress and the other named defendants for defamation per se, defamation per quod and false light invasion of privacy based on the allegedly unflattering representation of Troy Dyer in the movie. The complaint notes the tenth [***3] anniversary edition DVD includes a running commentary on the film by Childress and the film's director, Ben Stiller, in which Childress states the characters in the film are based on her friends at USC film school. Dyer claimed his work as a financial consultant in Wisconsin has been affected by the negative association with the movie character.
Defendants filed a special motion to strike Dyer's complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. (§ 425.16.) 2 In support of the motion, Childress declared Dyer gave her express permission to use his name for [**546] the fictional Troy Dyer. Childress asserted the use of Dyer's name was an inside joke because the fictional Troy Dyer was dissimilar to the plaintiff who was “straight laced, mature, [and] conservative … .” Childress stated that, after the theatrical release of the film, it was apparent to Childress that Dyer had seen the film but he never mentioned he had been upset or damaged by the use of his name.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
147 Cal. App. 4th 1273 *; 55 Cal. Rptr. 3d 544 **; 2007 Cal. App. LEXIS 260 ***; 2007 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2037; 2007 Daily Journal DAR 2641; 35 Media L. Rep. 1746
TROY DYER, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. HELEN CHILDRESS et al., Defendants and Appellants.
Subsequent History: Later proceeding at Dyer v. Childress, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 6820 (Cal., May 2, 2007)
Review denied by Dyer (Troy) v. Childress (Helen), 2007 Cal. LEXIS 5150 (Cal., May 16, 2007)
public interest, film, anti-SLAPP, defendants', motion picture, special motion, movie, public issue, free speech, limitations, molestation, media, right of free speech, Generation, lawsuit, anniversary, television, connected, edition, persona, sports
Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Strike, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, Scope, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burden Shifting, Initial Burden of Persuasion, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Testimony, Credibility of Witnesses, Weight & Sufficiency