Archive for the ‘Television Production’ Category

Reality Bites – Defamation and Business Tort Claims of Reality Show Participant Dismissed (NY)

June 29, 2015

Klapper v. Gaziano (New York)

In 2011, the plaintiff agreed to participate in the “Mob Wives” reality television show.  Prior to his participation, he signed an “Appearance Release” in which he agreed to not sue the production company and to release the production company and its affiliates and representatives from all liability.  After the show, plaintiff filed an action against several individual and corporate defendants, alleging defamation and tortious interference with existing contracts and prospective business relationships.  The defendant corporate entities moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a cause of action and for an award of attorney’s fees.  The trial court granted the motion, and plaintiff appealed. (more…)

Reality for Dr. Phil

January 27, 2011

Dieu v. Phil McGraw (California)
(Participants recruited to participate in a Dr. Phil reality show sue for negligence and intentional tort claims; waiver and release agreements signed by the participants do not preclude liability for the claims beyond negligence.)

After posting comments on Dr. Phil’s website about their distrust for men, the plaintiffs were recruited by producers to participate in a reality-based television show where they would live in a house and receive therapy from Dr. Phil.  Prior to their participation in the show, the plaintiffs signed several copies of “Dr. Phil Program Appearance Release” forms, all of which were substantially the same (the “Releases”).  In addition to describing the nature of the show (including “heated discussions, commentary and remarks”), the Releases also provided that the plaintiffs agreed not to sue the defendants for failure to disclose the subject matter of the show or the identity of guests, or as a result of dislike of the questioning or outcome from the program.  Additionally, the Releases asserted that the plaintiffs would be not receive therapy from Dr. Phil (contrary to alleged prior representations) and that no representations had been made to (or would be relied upon by) plaintiffs.  Specifically, the Releases waived and released liability of the defendants for “any claims, demands and causes of action for invasion of privacy or publicity, defamation, infliction of emotional distress and any other tort in connection therewith.”

Plaintiffs had a bad experience in connection with the program, alleging that the “mock house” was on a sound stage, was cramped (they shared one bathroom), and was in a bad neighborhood.  Plaintiffs further alleged that they had their laptops and cell phones taken from them and they were not permitted access to the outside world.  The plaintiff assert that they were not provided counseling, and when a plaintiff asked to leave she was convinced to stay through unfulfilled representations by the defendants.  In one instance, the plaintiffs were intentionally exposed to a naked man and were apparently mocked as a result of their reactions (they were “shocked and horrified”).  Despite a lack of cooperation, the plaintiff indicated that there were eventually allowed to leave the house.  Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a civil action against the defendants alleging various emotional and physical injuries from the experience, asserting claims for (1) fraud, (2) negligent misrepresentation, (3) negligence, (4) breach of fiduciary duty, (5) violations of the Business and Professions Code, (6) rescission, (7 intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (8) negligent infliction of emotional distress.

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You’re Fired

June 4, 2009

Christakis v. Mark Burnett Productions (California)
(Court dismisses the action of a disgruntled reality show applicant on procedural grounds, and finds that the applicant’s waiver and release was valid and binding to preclude liability.)

The plaintiff applied to be a participant on “The Apprentice,” a popular reality game show in which individuals compete against each other to prove their business skills and earn a coveted employment position with Donald Trump. Plaintiff was one of the fifty (50) finalists vying to make the show, but was ultimately not one of the final sixteen (16) selections. He thereafter filed a lawsuit in federal court in California, claiming that the production company engaged in “systematic actions” to disqualify him from the show, and that the production company made slanderous and defamatory statements about him. His complaint alleged (1) defamation; (2) tortuous interference with prospective economic advantage; and (3) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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