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James Franco is a no show, and a professor wants to give him a failing grade for it.
In what might be a case of history repeating itself, lawyers for a former New York University professor suing the actor for defamation submitted a motion for a default judgment on Wednesday based on Franco’s failure to answer.
Jose Angel Santana filed the lawsuit in September in New York state court against the actor, alleging that Franco had made “disparaging and inaccurate public statements” against Santana after receiving a “D” in his class in 2010.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, Santana has gone on the attack against Franco. “Whoever was in Clint Eastwood’s chair at the Republican National Convention was more present than Mr. Franco was in my classes,” Santana once told a newspaper.
For his part, Franco has remained mostly silent about the lawsuit.
The legal action targets comments made in public by the actor where he called his ex-teacher “awful,” adding, “I didn’t feel like I needed to waste my time with a bad teacher.”
Last November, co-defendant NYU answered the lawsuit, arguing that Santana’s suit was nonsense because the allegedly defamatory comments “consisted of nothing other than Franco’s personal opinions regarding Santana’s teaching skills.”
Franco could easily take a similar tact and ask the judge to weigh what’s fact vs. opinion.
(In response to Franco’s reasons for not wasting his time in class, Santana’s lawyers say “Franco’s reason(s) for not attending Plaintiff’s class is also a fact that can be proven true or false… Notably, Franco had previously cited his work on the movie 127 Hours as the reason he was unable to attend Plaintiff’s class.”)
But to make the case that his comments were only opinion, which can’t be defamatory as a matter of law, Franco has to retain a lawyer and show up.
Santana’s own attorney says that hasn’t happened even though the actor was served with a summons and complaint at his California residence on December 16.
“Defendant is now in default,” attorney Matthew Blit writes in an affidavit filed on Wednesday.
UPDATE: It appears as though Franco didn’t answer the complaint because he wasn’t properly served a summons. After this article appeared, his attorneys submitted papers that indicated that reps for the plaintiffs attempted to throw papers at him at the wrong address and when advised they hadn’t properly served him, the plaintiff filed for a default motion.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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