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“Netflix, Bring It On”: Fiona Harvey’s Lawyer on How He Can Win the ‘Baby Reindeer’ Battle (Exclusive)

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Baby Reindeer is now one of Netflix‘s most popular shows of all time.

Officially the 10th most-watched program in the streamer’s history, Richard Gadd‘s limited series sat in the top spot worldwide for a month before it was dethroned and accrued 56.5 million views within 26 days of its April 11 release. “It’s been an enormous hit around the world,” Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said.

Audiences were gripped by the story of Donny, an amateur comedian played by Gadd, who, over the course of several years, is harassed, stalked and sent over 41,000 emails, 744 tweets, 100 pages of letters and 350 hours of voicemails by a woman he once pitied. In the program, Martha (played by Jessica Gunning) shows up at his gigs, sexually assaults him and threatens his family as his life slowly derails. He is also sexually abused by a top TV writer and grapples with prolonged drug use.

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By the end, Martha, who had already served a four-and-a-half-year jail term for a previous stalking conviction, is jailed for nine months. Gadd plays himself in the show, based on his hit play of the same name that debuted on London’s West End. “This is a true story,” says a title card in the very first episode.

Following the show’s wild popularity, it did not take long for viewers to uncover the “real-life Martha.” A Scottish woman, who also claimed to be a lawyer (just as it was portrayed in the show), was thrust into the spotlight. Fiona Harvey had been found to have sent Gadd tweets, dating back years, about how she wanted him to “hang her curtains,” the very same term used in Baby Reindeer.

Now, Harvey is taking legal action against the streaming platform. She filed a whopping $170 million lawsuit against the streamer for defamation, negligence and privacy violations.

“I have no doubt that the character of ‘Martha’ in Baby Reindeer was intended to be a portrayal of me,” Harvey said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter via her lawyer. “The problem for Richard Gadd and now for Netflix is that Baby Reindeer is not a true story at all. I am not a ‘convicted stalker.’ I have never been charged with any crime. … Nobody ever approached me for any comment on the accuracy of Baby Reindeer or the very serious and damaging allegation that I am a convicted criminal, with a serious criminal record, who has spent time in prison. Nobody ever asked for my permission to present me in this way or to use my image at all.”

In a statement to THR, a Netflix spokesperson said: “We intend to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.”

Harvey’s New York-based attorney Richard Roth wants nothing more than to “cross-examine” Gadd on his claims. Roth has litigated several hundred cases across his career, from CEOs and industry magnates to celebrities and sports professionals. He has represented NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and Peyton Manning amongst many other athletes. Roth founded The Roth Law firm, which specializes in securities, entertainment and business litigation and arbitration.

In his first-ever interview since Harvey’s complaint was filed, Roth reveals to THR the details of the case, what damage has been done to Harvey’s life, and how his team is working to rectify what they call in the filed complaint, “the biggest lie in television history.”

Firstly, how did you come to represent Fiona Harvey? What about her case appealed to you?

I know a lot of lawyers in a lot of places. A couple lawyers in London reached out to me and thought this would be perfect for me because I do a lot of entertainment litigation. There’s four things about this case that appealed to me. One: I really think there’s a whole issue that goes on in this world about truth. It’s huge in this country, about fake news. Everyone watches things, and they come away from it, whether it’s Fox TV or NBC … it’s all about what you see. And that really is a shame. And one problem with this case is that truth is truth. There’s only one truth, but when Netflix says this is a true story, that’s rubbish. This isn’t a true story. And I think if Netflix is going to say this is a true story, then they have an obligation to make it a true story. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is that it’s horrific that this woman, who is very vulnerable, has now been thrust into the limelight and is getting death threats and can’t even leave her apartment because Richard Gadd decided to, essentially, for lack of a better word, exploit her. So that’s the second reason — I feel really bad for her. The third reason, of course, is money. I think there’s a tremendous amount of money we have here. And the fourth reason is because I think it’s exciting. I strongly believe that Fiona has been wronged here, and, by pursuing the litigation, the case will be a fulfilling win. I tell Netflix to bring it on.

I do believe that Netflix should be ashamed of itself. It is reprehensible. When you say this is a true story, you better make sure that it’s true.

$170 million is a huge sum of money. Can you explain where a number like this comes from?

Under some of the claims in California, Fiona is entitled to lost profits. So I don’t know how much money Netflix made on this — I know they’ve had over 60 million viewers. I know they’re touting it as the most successful Netflix show [ever]. So the profits [could be] $100 million, $150 million, $300 million. Fiona, if we prevail, is entitled to that.

And I believe once we’re in Los Angeles, and I have a jury picked, and I get to show them how deplorable Netflix’s conduct is, there’s a very good chance they’re going to get hit with punitive damage. There’s an obligation — whether you’re a reporter, whether you’re a newscaster, whether you’re a network — to tell the truth. And Netflix woefully failed in that. They literally wrote it off for the big dollar.

Fiona Harvey on Piers Morgan Uncensored. Piers Morgan Uncensored

How exactly does Baby Reindeer blur fact and fiction in a way that’s legally actionable? Other shows do this, so how is this one different?

Listen, there’s a lot of stories on TV that are based on reality or that are inspired by reality. That statement [that Baby Reindeer is a “true story”] is false, right? That’s where it starts. And then when they decide not to hide Fiona Harvey’s identity — yeah, they changed her name … but that’s it — and they literally make it so easy for anyone to discover who it is. … It’s a liability, that is, they’re exposed for it. But they’re creating real harm to a person. This is a person who is vulnerable. She’s a wonderful human being, and it just really is misogynistic. It’s just wrong to attack this woman the way they did, and that’s what makes this an interesting case because that’s what gives [Netflix] risk.

But if Gadd has records of repeated harassment by Harvey by way of thousands of emails, voicemails and text messages, what responsibility does she have in this case? Netflix said all the messages shown in the series are real emails he was sent. If she’s disputing that she went to prison, is she willing to admit that she broke the law by harassing him over a number of years?

She never broke the law. A background check [of Fiona Harvey], which is currently available in the U.K., says that there’s nothing recorded. No reprimands, no warnings, no cautions, nothing’s ever been reported. And as far as the stalking goes … I presume that Netflix did its due diligence. They certainly didn’t do it about her convictions. And they better have those 41,000 emails. But even if they have that many emails, there’s so many things in that story which are just verifiably untrue. And it really speaks volumes when they trashed this woman.

Netflix never even reached out to her. They did nothing to confirm the convictions. They did nothing to confirm a lot of other things. [In] their press release that they announced after the complaint was filed, they said, “We want to allow Gadd to tell his story.” Not a “true story,” [but] “his story,” which is interesting. So is it Gadd’s story, or is it the truth? When we go through our complaint, it’s very, very detailed about [Harvey] never stalking Gadd. About her never attacking Gadd. About how Netflix defames Harvey in its promotion on the website. I assume you know that Benjamin King [Netflix’s director of public policy] testified in front of the House of Commons and said that she was a convicted felon. There’s so many things they did here, which are so wrong. They have to be held accountable.

One of Harvey’s claims in the suit is “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and that her life has been ruined. Can you elaborate on the specifics of how her life has been ruined?

This is a woman who is afraid to leave her apartment. She literally sits at home all day. She’s afraid. She’s gotten death threats. She’s gotten a slew of scary communications from people. Everyone knows who she is. Whether I’m a member of the press or I’m in TV, [if] I’m going to report a true story on someone, I better make sure that it’s actually true. She’s not a public figure in the United States and in the U.K. It’s a lack of standard if you have a public figure. It’s actually easier for the press to get out of a claim if you’re a public figure. But this woman was minding her own business in the streets of London, and now she’s front and center. She’s been tagged as this horrific, criminally convicted stalker. She’s very, very scared.

Gadd has been performing Baby Reindeer for years. Why a lawsuit now?

So he’s done this play in front of, I don’t know, a couple hundred people here and there, right? It really was not a sensation. Now that he went on Netflix, the world is watching it. That’s the damage. When nobody knew about it, she wasn’t in fear of her life. But the fact that Netflix made her a pariah, made her enemy number one, [and] what did she do for it? They made her a convicted felon … and I will tell you that Baby Reindeer right now is on track to become one of Netflix’s most popular series of all time. They are just doing very, very, very well with the promotion and audience viewing of the series. I know that Richard Gadd has been on a national tour in the U.S. He spoke in New York last week. He was on The Today Show. He’s promoting this at the risk of causing actual harm to Fiona.

Gadd has said they went to great lengths to disguise the real-life identity of Martha, but does the speed with which she was identified undermine that?

Absolutely. Think about it. They didn’t change her accent. We know it’s a Scottish accent. They didn’t change the name of the bar [The Hoppy pub] that she went to in Scotland, right? They didn’t change her looks, right? It’s very similar to what she looks like. They didn’t change the tweets that were sent back and forth about “hang your curtains,” the “Baby Reindeer,” none of that. It took a nanosecond to find out who Fiona was.

I’m in the [entertainment] business. I know what you do. You don’t make it a Scottish stalker, you make it an Italian stalker, whatever different ethnicity, nationality. They did nothing. Everything in there leads to one person, and there have been other people coming out of the woodwork who essentially know that this is her because they’re in the bar. They see them. They know them. [Netflix] did nothing. It’s funny how they say they did everything to disguise it. When I get a chance to cross-examine Richard Gadd, which I will do, I’m going to say, “What did you do to disguise the fact that it was a Scottish-speaking, short, heavy-set woman?” They changed the name. That’s what they did.

You’ve just touched on it, but what more could Netflix have done to disguise the people who inspired these characters?

You give a fictitious name of a bar. You change the tweets a little bit. Instead of saying, “Hang your curtains,” they could say, “Put up your drapes,” right? Instead of saying “Baby Reindeer,” they can say “Infant whatever.” Netflix is in the business of making sure people are protected, and they did nothing.

Richard Roth of The Roth Law Firm The Roth Law Firm

But there is some discrepancy in terms of how she was identified as the real-life stalker who inspired the show. She claims that internet sleuths tracked her down and made her life miserable, but as you mentioned, there are Facebook posts and tweets that she posted over many years that are still live on the internet that identified her in her own words, and prove that she repeatedly harassed him online. How would you respond to that?

Here’s the deal. We live in an age where it is much, much, much easier to identify someone than it was 10 years ago, than it was five years ago, right? We live in a high-profile, very state-of-the-art communication, technological era, where I don’t have to do a lot to find somebody.

I’m not really a sleuth when it comes to Twitter [now X], but I understand that it’s easy to find those words on the platform. It’s very different than 20 years ago. Because it’s easier to find the identity of someone, the person who’s doing this “true story” better be certain that they do a good job of disguising it. So I don’t think this was an internet sleuth thing. I mean, there was an interview on [Piers Morgan Uncensored] last week. This guy, he writes for a paper in Scotland. He said he literally googled “real Martha” and it came up.

How does Harvey respond to other claims of harassment, such as the emails she allegedly sent to U.K. Labour leader Keir Starmer?

I haven’t followed it a lot but sending a lot of emails, texts, letters to a representative, that’s expected. I really don’t know a lot about it, but they are in the limelight. If I disagree with the getting rid of abortion in this country, and I want to write 100 letters to my congressman, my [Member of Parliament], where you are, saying, “This is wrong. You shouldn’t do that. I can’t believe what you are doing.” And I don’t know what these emails say, but if you want to write 100 letters, that’s what they are there for. So it’s a very different animal than what they’re saying she did, and I don’t think any of that really relates to, is relevant in, or will be admissible in this case. The issue here is: Did she engage in the conduct that they said she did?

Although some would argue that it shows that she has the propensity to send threatening or abusive messages. Does it not speak to her character?

Listen, these are things that I’m going to be sorting out as the case goes forward. But the bottom line here is that they had an obligation to check. Are there 41,000 emails? Does Gadd have them all? Are there 15? Are there 100? I know they don’t have a conviction, that’s not disputable. They don’t have two convictions. I know there’s a lot of things in [Baby Reindeer] that never happened, and there are people that are going to testify they never happened. I don’t think it’s a defense to say, “Well, she’s a stalker.” That just is not a defense of this case. I’m interested to see how they’re going to come back. They haven’t yet, but I don’t think that’s really relevant. They just have to show that what they said is true.

The First Amendment allows artists to express themselves and share opinions with the public, even while others may suffer as a result. Are Gadd and Netflix not protected by the First Amendment?

They are. The First Amendment provides that you can say whatever you want to say. So they have a right to say it, OK? I could say Donald Trump is the worst president in the history of the country, OK? It doesn’t mean you won’t have damages for saying it. So it’s very important to differentiate. You’re allowed to say things, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions for what you say, right? The protection allows you to say it, but you better not defame someone.

Does the fact that the show is a work of entertainment also not protect Gadd and Netflix?

It would if they said, “This is not a true story. This is fictitious,” or, “This is based on a true story.” If they said something other than “This is a true story,” then they would be protected. But if they’re saying this is true, then it should be true.

In this country, there’s so much fake news now, and when Netflix said, “We’re going to defend this case because we allowed Gadd to tell his story,” well, that’s not what you said. On the screen of the first episode, you didn’t say, “This is his story.” You said, “This is a true story.” So you’re bound by your statements. They could have said, “This is inspired by.”… There’s all kinds of things you can say to protect yourself. They intentionally didn’t say it because they knew they would get more attention if they said it was a true story.

You’ve filed a complaint. So what happens now? Has Netflix replied?

We file the complaint, we will serve it. Netflix will presumably make a motion saying “You can’t show it’s Fiona Harvey,” or whatever. … Whatever they make — they’re going to make a motion, or they’ll answer, one of the two — and we will then fight it out.

We take these matters very seriously. And it doesn’t matter to me who Netflix’s council is. We’re going to be going through motions and discovery and a trial if need be. And let Netflix’s whole modus operandi be shown to the public and before a jury in Los Angeles, because I’m telling you, they’re not going to like it. A jury is going to see her and see Gadd and see Netflix, and they’re going to be very unhappy.

So there’s a serious chance that Netflix gets nailed with punitive damages here for reprehensible conduct. Right now we’re going through the steps, and it takes a while. Litigation takes a while. It’s not going to be over this year. It’s going to be well into next year.

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