3:43pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Judge Allows Brett Ratner to Pursue Defamation Claim Against Rape Accuser
Brett Ratner's lawsuit against a woman who accused him of rape on Facebook will move forward, after a Hawaii federal judge on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss the case, but the producer will have to clear the hurdle of California's stringent anti-SLAPP statute before the case moves further.
Ratner in November sued Melanie Kohler for defamation after she wrote a Facebook post alleging he raped her more than a decade ago. She asked the court to toss the suit, arguing it was "threadbare" and failed to show she acted with malice, a standard Ratner would need to meet as a public figure. The parties also disputed whether the Hawaii court should consider California's anti-SLAPP statute, which seeks to bring an early end to frivolous lawsuits arising from the exercise of free speech. Kohler lives in Hawaii and wrote the Facebook post from there, but Ratner resides in California and that's where the alleged rape is supposed to have occurred.
U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor ruled during a Thursday hearing that Ratner's complaint will move forward. She also held that it's appropriate to apply California's statute and require Ratner to demonstrate a probability of succeeding on his claims before allowing the case to further proceed.
Both sides are declaring Gillmor's ruling a victory, with Ratner's team emphasizing that the court found the producer's complaint to be sufficient.
"We are pleased that the Court denied Melanie Kohler’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and validated the sufficiency of Mr. Ratner’s defamation claim against her," attorney Andrew Brettler said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "We look forward to litigating this case on the merits. Unlike Ms. Kohler and her attorneys, we do not intend to try this case in the media. So it is clear, this lawsuit was never about silencing women, but rather about holding Ms. Kohler responsible for the false and defamatory statements she made about Mr. Ratner."
Meanwhile, Kohler's attorneys Robbie Kaplan and Davida Brook are celebrating Gillmor's decision to allow California law to apply.
“We won something today far broader and better than a dismissal," Kaplan said in a statement to THR. "Today the judge ruled, against Mr. Ratner’s wishes, that the strongest law in the country to protect free speech, California’s anti-SLAPP law, applies here. This means that Mr. Ratner now must prove that our client is lying. We don’t think he can do that, because, quite simply, Melanie is telling the truth.”
Ratner and Kohler will have the opportunity to conduct limited discovery before Gillmor rules on any anti-SLAPP motion in this matter.