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Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s friend, playwright David Bar Katz, filed a $50 million lawsuit against the National Enquirer publisher America Media Inc. on Wednesday after the publication reported he said that he and the late actor were gay lovers.
Katz claims the publication printed a libelous story falsely claiming he gave them an “exclusive interview” in which he said he and Hoffman were lovers, had seen Hoffman freebase cocaine the night before his death and that he’d seen Hoffman use heroin.
In a complaint filed in the New York Supreme Court, Bar Katz claims the story is a lie. “The story is a complete fabrication: There was no interview,” it states. “Bar Katz and Hoffman were never lovers. Bar Katz did not see Hoffman freebasing cocaine the night before he died, or at any other time. Bar Katz never saw Hoffman use heroin or cocaine.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that Bar Katz has “no recollection” of ever meeting the three writers on the National Enquirer story and “unquestionably has not spoken to them or anyone else from the Enquirer since Hoffman’s death.”
Bar Katz’s lawyer, Judd Burstein, added: “This article is just disgusting. Here you have Phil’s family and his friends grieving, and the Enquirer comes along seeking to make a buck through putrid lies. Worse still, it appears that the Enquirer sent out a press release hyping the story so that it could sell more copies of the magazine. I do not know how these people can sleep at night.”
The complaint seeking $5 million in actual damages and $45 million in punitive damages was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Bar Katz discovered Hoffman’s body at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, after the actor reportedly missed an appointment to pick up his three young children (with longtime girlfriend, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell). Bar Katz asked the building manager to open Hoffman’s door, where he found the actor slumped in the bathroom. Police later revealed as many as 50 envelopes of heroine were found nearby. Autopsy results have not been made public, but Hoffman’s death is assumed to have been caused by an overdose.
Bar Katz doesn’t think much of the media’s treatment of Hoffman’s death.
The lawsuit says “the media coverage of Hoffman’s death has been highly regrettable and insensitive to Hoffman’s family and friends. But the generally unseemly coverage of Hoffman’s death now seems restrained in light of this new outrage by the Enquirer.”
The National Enquirer is well-accustomed to defamation lawsuits from celebrities. In such cases, the plaintiffs are typically deemed as public figures who must demonstrate actual malice in reporting falsehoods. In this instance, Bar Katz is arguably a limited purpose public figure for his connection to Hoffman, but the lawsuit disputes that. “Bar Katz is not a public figure for defamation purposes,” says the complaint. “Even if Bar Katz is a public figure, the Enquirer had actual knowledge that the Statements were false, or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.”
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