Woman Who Says She Inspired ‘Baby Reindeer’ Character Sues Netflix


A woman who says that a character in the Netflix drama “Baby Reindeer” was modeled after her sued the streaming company on Thursday for defamation, claiming that the show, which is based on a true story, falsely suggested that she was a convicted stalker.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles, lawyers for the woman, Fiona Harvey, said that she had never been convicted of a crime and that she had not committed other offenses that the character in the series does. She also claims that the show has destroyed her reputation.

In “Baby Reindeer,” which was created by the comedian Richard Gadd, a woman named Martha, played by the actress Jessica Gunning, torments an aspiring comedian named Donny Dunn (played by Mr. Gadd) through emails and voice mail messages.

Ms. Harvey’s lawsuit calls particular attention to a statement that appears onscreen at the beginning of “Baby Reindeer”: “This is a true story.” That statement, the lawsuit claims, is “the biggest lie in television history.”

The suit, which makes claims of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence, asks for tens of millions of dollars in damages.

The show’s credits include an additional statement: “This program is based on real events: however certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.”

In a statement, Netflix said, “We intend to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.” Netflix officials and Mr. Gadd have said they sought to disguise the identity of the character known as Martha in the series. But as Ms. Harvey describes in her lawsuit, it took just days for members of the public to scour the internet for clues and eventually identify her as the real-life Martha.

In the lawsuit, lawyers for Ms. Harvey say she has been “tormented” since being publicly outed online and “is fearful of leaving her home or checking the news.”

“Baby Reindeer” has been a huge and surprising success for Netflix. In the first four weeks after the seven-episode series premiered, it was viewed more than 56 million times, according to data released by the streamer.

But the series has also caused complications. A Netflix official was questioned about the streamer’s “duty of care” by a British lawmaker. Ms. Harvey has gone public with her complaints, airing them in an hourlong interview on YouTube with the television personality Piers Morgan, during which she called the show a “work of fiction.” Viewers have also tried to figure out the real-life identities of other characters in the series.

As part of her court filing, Ms. Harvey provided a photo of a certificate and a report from a background check appearing to show that she has no criminal convictions on her record. In the show, the character Martha is presented as a convicted stalker.

The lawsuit also points to a scene in the second episode of the series in which the Martha character sexually assaults Mr. Gadd’s character in a dark alley, pushing him against a wall and grabbing his genitalia. “Harvey has never had any sexual encounter with Gadd,” the lawsuit says. “The claim that Harvey sexually assaulted Gadd is a lie.”

Mr. Gadd has urged internet sleuths to stop digging into the inspirations for the show’s characters, writing on social media: “Please don’t speculate on who any of the real life people could be. That’s not the point of the show.”

Jack Begg contributed research.



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