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Carole Baskin is walking away from her lawsuit over Tiger King 2, but she hasn’t entirely retracted her claws after alleging she was duped into participating in the first season of the Netflix series and was unfairly portrayed.
After the Tiger King 2 trailer was released, Baskin on Nov. 1 sued Netflix and Royal Goode Productions. The Big Cat Rescue sanctuary owner, who was prominently featured in the original streaming docuseries, and her husband Howard Baskin asked the court to bar the defendants from using any footage of them or the sanctuary in the second season or any related advertising. The Baskins claimed the series made their business look like the “ethical and moral equivalent of Joe Exotic’s roadside zoo” and portrayed Carole as “a murderer who … disposed of her late husband’s remains by feeding them to her big cats.” They also say their appearance agreements didn’t authorize use of the footage in a sequel.
That same day U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington denied the Baskins’ emergency motion for a temporary restraining order. She wrote, “While the Court understands the Baskins’ frustration, it does not appear that inclusion of Defendants’ footage of the Baskins will cause any immediate harm that cannot be compensated with monetary damages.”
Their motion for a preliminary injunction was referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson who on Nov. 19 — two days after Tiger King 2 premiered on Netflix — recommended it also be denied. Wilson found the only way to give the Baskins what they wanted would be to halt the release until it the series was re-edited to remove the contested footage, which implicates the defendants’ First Amendment rights. “In this case, the requested injunction unquestionably implicates ‘speech of matters of public concern,'” writes Wilson. “I do not find persuasive the plaintiffs’ argument that the First Amendment prohibition against prior restraint is inapplicable because the information would be withheld on the basis of a private contract. … Even assuming that the plaintiffs could overcome the constitutional concerns associated with a prior restraint on speech, the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief.”
Wilson found the Baskins failed to demonstrate they’d suffer irreparable harm — even if their breach of contract arguments related to their appearance agreements is compelling. “[A]t this juncture, it does appear that the plaintiffs have stated a cognizable claim for breach of contract,” he writes. “However, the impairment of free speech pending resolution of this case, as well as the other preliminary injunction factors, weigh greatly in favor of denying the requested preliminary injunction.”
Netflix and Royale Good on Nov. 23 filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, move the dispute to New York. But, before the court could consider it, the Baskins dropped the fight.
Baskin on Dec. 3 withdrew the preliminary injunction motion and on Wednesday filed a notice of voluntary dismissal. Covington dismissed the matter without prejudice, so it could theoretically be revived at a later date but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
When reached for comment, Baskin’s attorney directed The Hollywood Reporter to the Big Cat Rescue website where the couple posted a video and written statement discussion their decision to walk away.
“This lawsuit was never about money damages,” reads the statement. “With the injunction declined Season 2 was aired. It received generally poor reviews and dropped out of the Netflix top 10 rapidly. We feel we were denied the only meaningful remedy available to us and that pursuing money damages is not the best use of our time because it reduces the time we can spend on our mission of stopping the abuse.”
The Baskins continue to say their time and attention is better spent “getting the Big Cat Public Safety Act through Congress” and “working on meaningful productions” like The Conservation Game and Carole Baskin’s Cage Fight. Ending with a swipe, they say, “Both of these productions have received very strong positive reviews in contrast to Tiger King Season 2.”
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