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It looks like an L.A. judge is going to let Brandon “Bam” Margera proceed to discovery on his claims that he was unjustly ousted from Jackass Forever because of an allegedly coerced agreement that required him to submit to regular drug tests, take medications with a witness on FaceTime and use a breathalyzer three times a day.
Margera in August sued Paramount Pictures, MTV Networks, Johnny Knoxville, director Jeff Tremaine, producer Spike Jonze and other businesses associated with the film, claiming producers violated his civil rights when they forced him to sign a “Wellness Agreement” and then terminated him from the project after a mandated drug test detected Adderall, which he takes for attention deficit disorder. Margera, who has struggled with mental health and addiction issues, says Knoxville and Jonze approached him while he was in rehab and said signing the agreement was the only way he’d be able to continue his work for the franchise.
The defendants responded with a special motion to strike claims for unfair competition and copyright infringement under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which can bring an early end to frivolous lawsuits arising from the exercise of free speech on a public issue. The filing of such a motion pauses discovery in the dispute.
In a tentative ruling issued Friday, L.A. Superior Court Judge Robert S. Draper found the matter arises from “the creation, development, release and distribution of Jackass Forever,” and it’s in the public interest as a “film to be distributed globally” that has “attracted further attention based on the parties’ legal dispute” — but he also found Margera’s claims have the minimal merit necessary to survive the motion and proceed to discovery.
Draper found that Margera has plausibly alleged his talent agreement, which grants Paramount ownership of anything he created for the film, might be void because he “signed the Wellness Agreement under duress while in rehab, approached with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”
“The purpose of the SLAPP statute’s accelerated hearing is to dispose of claims promptly that implicate free speech that clearly have no merit,” writes Draper in the tentative ruling. “Defendants might ultimately prevail as this case continues, but the claims have a minimal merit, and plaintiffs should have an opportunity to conduct discovery to identify certain examples of orally developed ideas that were actually used in the film.”
The court also found Margera has shown a probability of success in his unfair competition claim, which alleges wrongful termination, discrimination and violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Draper did strike the causes of action requesting injunctive relief, finding they’re “not recognized as causes of action in California.”
Draper ultimately took the matter under submission following a Friday hearing.
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