FX Wins Appellate Victory in ‘Feud’ Defamation Suit

Munger, Tolles & Olson represented FX Networks and Pacific 2.1 Entertainment Group in winning dismissal of actress Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit alleging breach of the right of publicity and false-light claims based on the FX docudrama “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

Ms. de Havilland sued FX in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The trial court denied defendants’ anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion, seeking to dismiss the case. Defendants then retained Munger, Tolles & Olson for the appeal.

A three-judge panel in the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, found that Feud’s depiction of Ms. de Havilland was protected speech under the First Amendment. The panel reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded with directions to grant the anti-SLAPP motion and award defendants their costs and attorneys’ fees.

Described as a major victory for filmmakers and other content creators, the case was widely covered in the press, including the Los Angeles Times, which opined that the ruling “means historical fiction gets to survive.”

The Munger, Tolles & Olson team included Kelly M. Klaus, Glenn D. Pomerantz, Fred A. Rowley, Jr., Jeffrey Y. Wu, Mark R. Yohalem and Jennifer L. Bryant.