Scottish Woman Sues Netflix for $170M Over Baby Reindeer Character Depiction

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A Scottish woman, Fiona Harvey, is suing Netflix for defamation, negligence, and privacy violations, claiming that the character Martha in the hit drama Baby Reindeer is based on her.

Harvey’s lawsuit, filed in a California court, seeks over $170 million (£132 million) in damages, alleging that Netflix broadcast “brutal lies” about her to over 50 million viewers worldwide.

Harvey argues that the series falsely depicts her as a convicted criminal who spent time in prison for stalking. She also denies allegations of sexually assaulting the show’s creator, Richard Gadd. According to court documents, Harvey contends that Netflix chose to perpetuate falsehoods because “better stories made money.”

In the series, Martha is shown sexually assaulting Gadd’s character along a canal, a scene Harvey strongly refutes. Speaking to BBC News, Harvey expressed confidence in her case, stating, “I have no doubt about that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it. We think we are going to win.”

The first episode of Baby Reindeer claims to be a true story, while end credits note that some characters and incidents have been fictionalised. During a parliamentary hearing last month, Netflix executive Benjamin King described the show as depicting the “true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker.”

Gadd, a comedian, wrote and stars in the series based on his alleged experience with a woman he met at a pub. He is not named as a defendant in Harvey’s lawsuit, nor are their real names used in the series. However, Harvey has identified herself as the inspiration for the character Martha.

Harvey’s lawsuit claims that Netflix failed to verify Gadd’s story before creating the series. “It never investigated whether Harvey was convicted, a very serious misrepresentation of the facts,” the complaint states, adding that Netflix did not confirm any details about the alleged stalking or assault.

Richard Roth, Harvey’s lawyer, asserts that there is “incontrovertible documentary evidence” proving Harvey has no criminal record. The lawsuit includes a background check and a certificate attesting to Harvey’s clean criminal record.

Since the series’ release in April, Harvey says she has received numerous death threats and has become increasingly reclusive. She described feeling “fearful of leaving her home or checking the news,” according to the lawsuit.

In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Harvey confirmed knowing Gadd during his time working at a London pub but denied sending him excessive emails or voicemails, as depicted in the series. “None of that’s true. I don’t think I sent him anything,” she stated, acknowledging only a few “jokey banter emails.”

The lawsuit also claims that real comments Harvey made to Gadd, such as a tweet from 2014, are used in the show’s dialogue.

Netflix and Richard Gadd have not confirmed Harvey’s identity as the basis for Martha, and Netflix has not responded to BBC’s request for comment.

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