“Varsity Blues” Defamation Case Against Netflix Heads to Federal Court

Netflix Inc., along with Netflix Worldwide Entertainment, LLC., 241C Films, LLC., Library Films, LLC., Jon Karmen and Chris Smith filed a notice of removal to the District of Massachusetts on Friday after a complaint for defamation concerning the recent college admissions scandal was filed against them on April 6.

The complaint alleged that the Netflix documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal portrays the plaintiffs in a defamatory way. The defendants include media giant Netflix Inc. and its subsidiary Netflix Worldwide Entertainment, LLC. The other defendants, 241C Films, LLC, Library Films, LLC, and Jon Karmen are producers of the documentary, while Chris Smith is the director.

The plaintiffs, members of the Wilson family, seek public apologies and compensation for defamation over their portrayal in the aforementioned documentary. The Wilson family alleged that grouping them alongside other families, whose parents have all “admitted to wrongdoing” in cases relating to “Operation Varsity Blues”innocent, has subjected them to the “unlawful and unfair destruction” of their family’s reputation. The plaintiffs argued that the documentary omits certain details of the investigation that would support their innocence in the matter, further harming their reputation.

In its notice of removal, Netflix et al. argued that Wilson Jr.’s libel claims are barred by California’s anti-SLAPP statute and , that plaintiff John B. Wilson, Jr. is misjoindered, as they claim there are no defamatory statements that concern the plaintiff. The defendants added that their documentary is protected by the fair report privilege because the “gist” of their story is true..

Netflix, John Karmen, and Chris Smith are represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The Wilson family is represented by Todd & Weld LLP.