May 22, 2024


World's finest Law

Is Jerry West’s Potential Lawsuit Against HBO Over His Portrayal in the Lakers Docudrama “Winning Time” a Jump Ball?


Past month, HBO launched its new drama series Profitable Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty – based on the e-book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman. To say that Jerry West, the former head mentor and GM of the Los Angeles Lakers dislikes the way he is portrayed in the HBO sequence Successful Time is an understatement. West calls his portrayal “false and defamatory” and he has publicly named for a retraction and an apology.  In a letter to HBO, West’s attorney claims that Profitable Time falsely and cruelly portrays West as an out-of-command, intoxicated, rage-aholic. West’s attorney promises that the producers have dedicated the tort of bogus light-weight invasion of privacy by creating a wrong perception about Mr. West that is extremely offensive and injurious to his popularity and have also defamed Mr. West by attributing acts of rage to him that he under no circumstances fully commited.

In De Havilland v. Forex Networks, LLC, Olivia De Havilland advanced a wrong mild claim above her portrayal in the docudrama “Feud: Bette and Joan”. A bogus light assert is a sort of invasion of privateness, based mostly on publicity that sites a human being in the public eye in a bogus gentle that would be extremely offensive to a sensible human being, and where by the defendant understood or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized issue and the false light in which the aggrieved man or woman would be placed.  A false gentle claim is equivalent to a libel assert, and its specifications are the exact as a libel assert, which includes proof of malice. So, in get for West to prevail on both of those his fake mild claim and his defamation declare, he would have to exhibit that his portrayal in Winning Time had been (1) assertions of point, (2) in fact bogus or develop a false impact about him, (3) are remarkably offensive to a acceptable human being or defamatory, and (4) built with genuine malice. Real malice would be recognized by showing that HBO deliberately portrayed West in the hope of insinuating a defamatory import to the viewer, or that HBO knew or acted in reckless disregard as to whether his portrayal would be interpreted by the average viewer as a defamatory statement of point.

Just one of the portrayals West promises to be defamatory was HBO’s depictions of his response to the drafting of Magic Johnson. The series portrays West in the pursuing scenes with regards to Magic Johnson – 1 is West golfing with Jerry Buss, Invoice Shannan and Frank Mariani although talking about Magic Johnson and West is proven kicking his golf ball, owning a profanity laden outburst and storming off a further exhibits West yelling and breaking a golfing club about his knee and a 3rd scene, having put soon after Magic Johnson was drafted, West is portrayed throwing his MVP trophy by way of his office window in anger.

Just before the court docket even receives to the issue of irrespective of whether West’s portrayal is defamatory, the court would to start with have to identify regardless of whether his portrayal was considerably correct and if not, no matter if scenes are statements of reality or the dramatized belief of the producer.

Considering that truth of the matter is a protection to a defamation declare, HBO would probably argue that West’s portrayal was substantially correct. In determining irrespective of whether a statement is considerably legitimate, courts usually review the language or portrayal with the genuine fact to figure out no matter if the truth of the matter would have a distinct effect on the intellect of the ordinary reader/viewer. Seemingly, West was not totally convinced that Magic could prosper as a place guard and West most popular Sidney Moncrief. Evidently, West went as significantly as to attempt to encourage Jack Kent Cooke, the outgoing operator of the Lakers, not to draft Johnson.  Also, seemingly in West’s autobiography, “My Charmed, Tormented Life”, he talked over purposefully breaking golf golf equipment and Pat Riley witnessing him throwing his golf equipment in excess of the fence of the Bel Air Nation Club. Can the producers get these impartial information, dramatize and merge them, and nevertheless have this portrayal be significantly accurate?

If a assertion/portrayal is not truthful, then the major thought is regardless of whether this sort of an typical, fair viewer, observing the scenes in their unique context, would conclude that they are statements of fact and not the dramatized belief of the producer.  According to the belief of the De Havilland courtroom, that may be a obstacle to set up. There the courtroom explained that “[v]iewers are normally familiar with dramatized, fact-based mostly videos and miniseries in which scenes, conversations, and even characters are fictionalized and imagined” and the fact that a software “is a so-termed docudrama or historical fiction . . . may indicate that the quotations should really not be interpreted as the actual statements of the speaker to whom they are attributed”. Citing the Ninth Circuit situation of Partington v. Bugliosi, the court docket concluded that most viewers of docudramas “are mindful by now that parts of this sort of systems are a lot more fiction than actuality.”

It seems that the courts in New York may possibly not go as considerably as the California Court of Appeals did in De Havilland.  In Fairstein v. Netflix, the United States District Courtroom for the Southern District of New York declined to conclude that viewers of When They See Us would suppose the program is “more fiction than fact” but alternatively that the dialogue in the dramatization “is not a verbatim recounting of the serious-lifestyle participants and is meant to seize the essence of their terms and deeds.”

In accordance to the Fairstein courtroom, the vital to determining the difference amongst non-actionable statements of feeling and actionable statements of specifics (or an opinion that indicates that it is primarily based on information which justify the viewpoint) is the implication that the statement is centered on undisclosed information recognised to the defendants. The difference in between fact and belief is an problem of legislation for the courts, and the perseverance will be dependent on the court’s evaluation of how the assertion would be recognized by the average man or woman exposed to the assertion in its full context.

Is West’s portrayal the unactionable, dramatized viewpoint of the producers, or is his portrayal dependent on, or does it appear to the ordinary, realistic viewer to be based mostly on undisclosed specifics regarded to the producers? Even though that will be for the courtroom to decide, a variable to contemplate is a scene in Successful Time where Jerry Buss, talking straight to the viewers, suggests “Jerry West, Head Coach of the Lakers, thought of a genuine gentleman of the activity to anyone who does not know him.” West’s attorneys argue that the scene implies that Successful Time depicts the “real” West. Nevertheless, there is a disclaimer at the beginning of Successful Time. Generally, disclaimers give the producer some space to declare that a work or pieces of a perform are dramatized thoughts. Having said that, as the United States District Court for the Central District of California pointed out in Gaprindashvili v. Netflix (the Queens Gambit defamation suit), the presence of a disclaimer is a “factor in the investigation, albeit not a dispositive one.”

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