×

Judge Declines to Toss Brett Ratner’s Libel Suit Against Rape Accuser

A federal judge in Hawaii refused on Thursday to dismiss producer Brett Ratner’s libel lawsuit against a woman who accused him of rape.

Attorneys for the accuser, Melanie Kohler, had urged Judge Helen Gillmor to throw out the case, arguing that it was intended to discourage other women from coming forward. They also argued that the four-page lawsuit was not sufficiently detailed to sustain a claim for defamation. Gillmor found that the claim was sufficient to survive the motion to dismiss.

“This case is going to come down to whether what she said was true, and we’re going to have to try the case to determine that,” Eric Seitz, an attorney for Ratner, said.

Kohler’s side did score a victory, however, when Gillmor held that the case would be governed by the California anti-SLAPP statute, which protects free speech rights and makes it more difficult to pursue defamation claims in California. Ratner’s attorneys had argued that the case should be governed by Hawaii’s anti-SLAPP law, which applies solely to speech involving government actions. Kohler lives in Hawaii, but alleges that Ratner raped her a dozen years ago while she was a resident of California.

“The California anti-SLAPP statute is the most powerful statute of any statute in all 50 states to protect the free speech rights of citizens,” said attorney Robbie Kaplan, who represents Kohler. “We are quite confident it will serve that function here by protecting Ms. Kohler’s free speech rights to speak her truth about what Mr. Ratner did to her.”

On. Oct. 20, Kohler wrote a Facebook post in which she said that Ratner had “preyed on me as a drunk girl who was alone at a club,” and that he had “forced himself upon me after I said no and no and no again.” She deleted the post within two hours, after receiving a call from Ratner’s attorney, Martin Singer.

Ratner sued on Nov. 1, the same day the L.A. Times reported that six other women had accused Ratner of sexual harassment or misconduct. At the time, Kohler’s allegation had not been publicly reported. In the suit, Ratner’s attorneys called Kohler’s allegation “entirely false,” and alleged that he had suffered reputational harm because of her claim.

In pleadings in Hawaii, Ratner’s attorneys allege that Kohler “changed her rape story multiple times since she initially published it.”

“We are pleased that the Court denied Melanie Kohler’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and validated the sufficiency of Mr. Ratner’s defamation claim against her,” Andrew Brettler, another attorney for Ratner, said in a statement. “We look forward to litigating this case on the merits. Unlike Ms. Kohler and her attorneys, we do not intend to try this case in the media. So it is clear, this lawsuit was never about silencing women, but rather about holding Ms. Kohler responsible for the false and defamatory statements she made about Mr. Ratner.”

The parties will next proceed to a hearing on a motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute, at which Ratner’s side will have to show a probability of prevailing on the claim.

“The ruling on the anti-SLAPP statute is a much broader ruling than the ruling on the motion to dismiss,” Kaplan said.

More Biz

  • Why the Oscars, Emmys Shouldn't Try

    Grammy Awards Nominating Is Marred by Insider Deals, Ousted CEO’s Complaint Alleges

    Amid the multiple claims in former Recording Academy boss Deborah Dugan’s blockbuster complaint against the organization is a section that is deeply critical of the Grammy Awards nominating processes and essentially accuses it of insider dealing and corruption. Its allegations, if true, suggest worst-case scenarios, many involving the Board of Trustees that ultimately controls the [...]

  • The Irishman

    Netflix Adds 8.8 Million Subscribers in Q4, Cites Competition for Lower U.S. Gains

    Netflix beat its forecast for overall subscriber additions for the fourth quarter of 2019, while it brought in fewer than expected U.S. streaming customers. The company added a net 420,000 streaming customers in the U.S. and 8.33 million overseas in the year-end 2019 quarter, for a total of 8.76 million net adds. Netflix had previously [...]

  • Chris McCarthy Sets ViacomCBS Team for

    Chris McCarthy Sets ViacomCBS Leadership Team for Entertainment & Youth Division

    ViacomCBS’ senior leadership ranks are coming into sharper focus as Chris McCarthy, head of the sprawling Entertainment and Youth wing has solidified his senior leadership team. A number of executives closely associated with McCarthy are gaining additional responsibilities, including programming maven Nina Diaz, MTV chief marketing officer Jacqueline Parkes and PR chief Liza Burnett Fefferman. [...]

  • caa logo

    CAA Sets Eleven-Member Board to Manage Day-to-Day Operations

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) announced Tuesday that the agency is establishing a board to manage its daily operations. The CAA Board will consist of eleven members: Risa Gertner, Michael Levine, Emma Banks, Joe Cohen, Maha Dakhil, Paul Danforth, Michelle Kydd Lee, Joel Lubin, Sonya Rosenfeld, Rick Roskin, and Tiffany Ward. Each board member will continue [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content