Disney Argues 'Criminal Minds' Class Action Is "Trial by Ambush"

Thomas Gibson Shemar Moore on Criminal Minds - Photofest - H 2016
Photofest

Disney is asking an L.A. judge to dismiss a sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaint from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing for being "hopelessly vague" about which Criminal Minds workers it's suing on behalf of.

In May 2020, DFEH sued Disney, ABC and other companies and individuals connected to the procedural. The agency alleges that director of photography Greg St. Johns "engaged in sexual harassment, discrimination and harassment" against on-set workers, and it filed a complaint on behalf of "a group of persons who worked on set for the production of the television series Criminal Minds — including Anthony Matulic and Dauv McNeely."

On Jan. 12, Disney and the individual defendants (except for St. Johns, who is separately represented) filed a demurrer to the complaint, asking L.A. County Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Buckley to examine whether the agency has to meet the requisite standards for commonality among members of the class and whether the "hopelessly vague class definition" dooms the litigation.

With regard to the class definition, the defendants argue the lack of detail deprives them of due process and unduly prejudices their ability to investigate the claims and defend themselves.

"The DFEH's Section 12961 class action seeks to involve every person who worked on the television production, Criminal Minds, at any time, with zero way of knowing who the witnesses are, what documents are relevant, and what events are at issue," writes attorney Jennifer Baldocchi in the filing. "Simply stated, this is trial by ambush, depriving Defendants of basic, fundamental, and required due process under the California Fair Notice Standard."

By leaving the case open to "potentially every single person, whether employee, contractor, or otherwise, who ever set foot on the Criminal Minds production set over twelve years" the defendants say DFEH fails to meet the commonality standard required for it to bring a class action on behalf of itself in the public interest.

"Without a description of an identifiable group sharing common issues of fact or law, it is impossible to know who to interview or depose, what documents to review, and how to craft or respond to discovery, and which witnesses to call at trial," writes Baldocchi, adding that more than 10,000 people worked on the series over 14 seasons.

"The FAC alleges that Matulic resisted a butt slap, McNeely was threatened with physical violence, an unnamed crew member was pantsed, and that some other alleged unidentified men were subject to unwanted touching, kisses, or caresses by St. John," writes Baldocchi. "However, the FAC fails to explain how a single butt slap shares commonality with alleged physical violence or being pantsed."

A hearing on the demurrer, which is posted below, is currently set for Feb. 17.