HBO Pushes Judge to Reject Amended 'Luck' Lawsuit
A former American Humane Association employee says the organization looked the other way or covered up animal abuse on productions including "Life of Pi" and "The Hobbit."
Last month, Barbara Casey, who worked as the director of production in the American Humane Association's film and television unit until she was let go after complaining about alleged horse mistreatment on HBO's Luck, renewed her attempt to hold the network and series producer Stewart Productions partly responsible for her firing.
In an amended complaint that alleges that the entertainment companies are liable for "aiding and abetting a wrongful termination," she claims that the AHA "kowtows" to Hollywood producers. Her legal papers included graphic pictures and discussed how her former employer looked the other way or covered up animal abuse on such productions as the Life of Pi, War Horse and The Hobbit.
Casey reserved special scorn for AHA's relationship with HBO, and now the cable network has struck back with a motion to strike her lawsuit.
HBO and Stewart are not only renewing their previous arguments that the law doesn't support the type of aiding-and-abetting claim that Casey is bringing, but the production-defendants are invoking the First Amendment to get a judge to quickly dismiss a lawsuit that they see as frivolous.
"The alleged acts by HBO and Stewart that form the basis of plaintiff's claims against them were unquestionably in furtherance of defendants' right of free speech because they were in aid of and incorporated into a broadcast in connection with a public issue,'' say the defendants.
They add that horse-racing scenes were the "core of the program's content" and that "the animal actors in 'Luck' were an essential element of both the drama and the excitement of `Luck' and they were fundamental to the series' creativity."
The Los Angeles Superior Court judge overseeing the case has already expressed an inclination to reject Casey's attempt to include HBO and Stewart in the lawsuit, but allowed the plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint.
The AHA is also unhappy with Casey's litigation.
Upon the filing of her amended complaint, which made allegations like AHA's president attending red carpet events with producers and celebrities, and AHA having conflicts that resulted in the "concealing (of) animal deaths and injuries as a matter of course," the organization made a public rebuke.
The AHA said in a statement, "We absolutely and categorically deny the sensationalist, inflammatory, misleading and untrue allegations in Ms. Casey's amended complaint, and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves through the proper legal channels."
The AHA has also filed an answer to the amended complaint, saying their actions were "made in good faith, honestly, without malice," that Casey failed to mitigate damages, among 15 affirmative defenses. The AHA is demanding their attorneys' fees.
The AHA is represented by Alan Zuckerman. HBO and Stewart are represented by Jolene Konnersman at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.