Woman sues Netflix for $170 million over Baby Reindeer 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 character of Martha in hit Netflix drama Baby Reindeer is suing the streamer for defamation, negligence and invasions of privacy.

Fiona Harvey, who says she was based on Martha, argued in a lawsuit filed in a California court on Thursday that Netflix told “monstrous lies” about her to more than 50 million viewers around the world.

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

The show is written by and stars Scottish comedian Richard Gadd.

“We intend to vigorously defend this matter and stand up for Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story,” a statement from Netflix said.

Ms. 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.

“I have no doubt about that. Otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. We believe we will win,” she said.

The first episode of the miniseries claims, “This is a true story.”

The show’s end credits state that the program is “based on true events: but some characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.”

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”.

Gad wrote the series about his alleged experience when he was stalked by a woman he met at the bar where he worked. He was not named as a defendant in Ms. Harvey’s lawsuit.

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

On social media, Gad previously implored fans to refrain from trying to identify Martha, the stalker character he first described in a comedy routine.

Mrs. Harvey identified herself as the woman portrayed as Martha in the series. Netflix and Mr. Gad have not confirmed this.

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

“Whether Harvey was convicted was never investigated, which is an extremely serious misrepresentation of the facts,” the complaint reads, referring to Martha’s character’s previous conviction for stalking.

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

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

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

Mr Roth added that there was “no doubt” at all that Ms Harvey’s identity had been used in the Baby Reindeer plot.

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.”

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