Rachel DeLoache Williams is suing Netflix.
On Monday, the writer filed a lawsuit alleging defamation and false light invasion of privacy against the streaming service for its portrayal of her in the series, “Inventing Anna“, according to court docs obtained by ET. ET has reached out to Netflix for comment.
Katie Lowes played Williams in the series, which follows the fraudulent actions of Anna Sorokin, who went by Anna Delvey at the time. Williams documented her one-time friendship with Sorokin in a 2019 book, My Friend Anna.
“This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the series which portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic person,” the docs allege. “… This action is based firmly on statements of fact which are demonstrably false and the attribution of statements that she never made.”
The suit cites several media outlets that “commented on Netflix’s hatchet job” of Williams’ character, including Yahoo News, The Huffington Post and The New York Post.
The docs go on to claim that Williams “has been the subject of thousands of such abusive messages” since the series’ release.
“As a result of Netflix’s false portrayal of her as a vile and contemptible person, Williams was subjected to a torrent of online abuse, negative in-person interactions, and pejorative characterizations in podcasts, etc. that were based on the series,” the docs claim, “which establish that Netflix’s actions exposed her to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace, or induced an evil opinion of her.”
The docs concede that Netflix has a “right to have an unpleasant character in the series,” but says that the streaming service “should have given the character a fictitious name and changed the character’s identifying details so that no one would believe that the character was a portrayal ‘of and concerning’ the real Rachel Williams.” Netflix did just that for “many of the real life protagonists in the Sorokin saga,” the docs note.
“Given the easy alternative of protecting her by using a fictional name, the decision to use her real name evidences Netflix’s intent to harm her reputation,” the docs claim, “thereby justifying the imposition of punitive damages, especially if Netflix made that decision because Williams had sold her rights to the rival Sorokin project being developed by HBO.”
The docs go on to note that, in the final episode, a photograph of Williams is shown under a fake Instagram account that Lowes’ character used throughout the series “thereby blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, and encouraging viewers to believe that the series depicts the real Rachel Williams.”
The suit includes a list of allegedly defamatory statements made throughout the series, and claims that they “were made by Netflix with actual malice, defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for truth or falsity.”
Citing a quote by the series’ executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, the docs allege that “Netflix knew that the defamatory statements were false or acted with a reckless disregard of Williams’ rights.”
Williams is requesting a jury trial and is asking for actual and presumed damages, punitive damages, temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief, pre and post-judgment interest, costs of suit, and further relief the court deems just and proper. She’s also requesting that, in response to the suit, Netflix be stopped from continuing to make the allegedly defamatory statements and remove them from the series.
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