James Woods vs. John Doe: Complaint for Defamation; Invasion of Privacy by False Light
by James Woods
July 29, 2015
MICHAEL E. WEINSTEN, ESQ (BAR NO. 155680)
EVAN N. SPIEGEL, ESQ. (BAR NO. 198071)
LINDSAY MOLNAR, ESQ (BAR NO. 272156)
LAVELY & SINGER
2049 Century Park East, Suite 2400
Los Angeles, California 90067-2906
Telephone: (310) 556-3501
Facsimile: (310) 556-3615
Attorneys for Plaintiff James Woods
Superior Court of California
County of Los Angeles
Jul 29 2015
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
JAMES WOODS, an individual,
JOHN DOE a/k/a "Abe List" and DOES 2
through 10, inclusive,
Case No.: BC589746COMPLAINT FOR:
(2) INVASION OF PRIVACY BY FALSE LIGHT
JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
Plaintiff JAMES WOODS ("Woods" or "Plaintiff") alleges as follows:NATURE OF THE CASE
1. This action arises from the publication of a malicious and fabricated statement by a cowardly individual who hides behind the Twitter name "Abe List" ("AL") to falsely accuse and humiliate others who dare to harbor opinions different from his own. On July 15, 2015, AL stepped over the line by falsely accusing actor James Woods of being a "cocaine addict" on the social media site Twitter, a message sent to thousands of AL's followers and hundreds of thousands of Mr. Woods' followers. In fact, Woods is not now, nor has he ever been, a cocaine addict, and AL had no reason to believe otherwise. Rather, AL's outrageous claim is the culmination of a malicious on-line campaign by AL to discredit and damage Woods' reputation, a campaign which began as early as December 2014. Although AL's rantings against Woods began with childish name calling, it has clearly escalated beyond the protections of free speech, and AL must now be held to account for the millions in damages he has caused.
2. By this lawsuit, Woods intends to unmask and reveal AL for the liar he is and to recover in excess of$10 million in damages caused by AL's outrageous conduct. For over forty-five years, Woods (68) has worked tirelessly to build a career and reputation as one of the most hard-working, prolific and' recognizable actors of our time. He has also devoted significant time and money to numerous philanthropic causes. AL's reckless and malicious behavior, through the worldwide reach of the internet, has now jeopardized Woods' good name and reputation on an international scale. AL, and anyone else using social media to propagate lies and do harm, should take note. They are not impervious to the law.THE PARTIES
3. Plaintiff James Woods is a world-renowned, award-winning, actor that has appeared in over 130 films and television series including The Onion Field, Once Upon a Time in America, Salvador, Casino, Nixon, Hercules, Shark, and White House Down. He has twice been nominated for an Academy Award, has won three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Woods is involved with numerous philanthropic causes including, without limitation, the America Heart Association, the Los Angeles Shelter for LGBTQ Youth and the Rhode Island Foundation (where he set up a charitable fund in Honor of his late brother Michael J. Woods). In 1997, he was honored with the Silver Circle Award for his charity work with the Venice Family Clinic, a local organization dedicated to providing quality health care to people in need. He was also the recipient of an American Heart Association Award for its Stroke Awareness Campaign.
4. Woods is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that the anonymous, fictitiously named John Doe a/k/a "Abe List" defendant ("John Doe" or "AL") is an individual and resident of the County of Los Angeles, State of California. In the unlikely event that AL is not a resident of Los Angeles County, AL has advanced his intentionally tortious, harmful and fraudulent schemes in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, where he has engaged in conduct to harm a California citizen.
5. Woods is ignorant of the true names and capacities of Defendants sued herein as John Doe and Does 2 through 10, inclusive, and therefore sues said Defendants by such fictitious names. Woods will amend this Complaint to allege the true names and capacities of such fictitiously named Defendants when the same have been ascertained. Woods is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that each of the fictitiously named Defendants is responsible in some manner for the occurrences, acts and omissions alleged herein, and that Woods' damages have been, and will be, proximately caused by their conduct. Among other things, Does 2 through 10 may be held directly liable for the defamatory posting by AL by virtue of having knowingly assisted AL in the publication of the false and defamatory statement and/or having knowingly republished the false statement without having any reason to believe in its accuracy. For convenience, each allegation regarding AL shall apply to each of the Doe Defendants 2 through 10. AL and Doe Defendants 2 through 10 are sometimes hereinafter collectively referred to as "Defendants," as the context so indicates.
6. Woods is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendants, and each of them, were the agents, employees, partners, joint venturers, co-conspirators, owners, principals, and/or employers of the remaining Defendants, and each of them, and are, and at all times herein mentioned were, acting within the course and scope of that agency, employment, partnership, conspiracy, ownership or joint venture. Woods is further informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that the acts and conduct alleged herein were known to, authorized and/or ratified by the officers, directors, and managing agents of Defendants, and each of them.FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(Defamation Against All Defendants)
7. Woods repeats, re-alleges, adopts and incorporates each and every allegation contained in paragraphs 1 through 6, inclusive, as though fully set forth herein.
8. Woods' claims arise out of and are for damages with respect to a false and defamatory statement which was initially published on or about July 15, 2015 by an unidentified anonymous person who created and who operates a Twitter account under the name "Abe List" (the "AL Twitter Account"). The owner of the AL Twitter Account has thousands of followers and, since at least December 2014, has undertaken to engage his followers with a campaign of childish name-calling targeted against Woods. In the past, AL has referred to Woods with such derogatory terms as "prick," 'joke," "ridiculous," "scum" and "clown-boy."
9. On July 15, 2015, and for the sole and intentional purpose of harming Woods, AL concocted and posted on the AL Twitter Account the outrageous, baseless, false and defamatory statement "cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting" (hereinafter, the "False Statement"). In doing so, AL intended to, and did, convey to thousands of AL's followers and others with access to the internet the false claim that Woods is addicted to cocaine, a controlled substance.
10. Woods is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, an unidentified person operates and utilizes the AL Twitter Account which is displayed at or with the uniform resource locator ("URL") < https://mobile.twitter.com/abelisted?p=s
>, and which is continually maintained and is included in and appears prominently in current Google.com and other search engine results. Indeed, a search on Google.com for "Abe List James Woods" yields the outrageous statements from the AL Twitter Account as the top two results, including one that calls Woods "a ridiculous scum clown-boy."
11. AL published, and/or caused to be published or authorized to be published, the False Statement on the AL Twitter Account and in current (as of the date of this Complaint) Google.com search engine results, causing the False Statement to be viewed thousands of times and possibly even hundreds of thousands of times. AL posted the False Statement in response to a Twitter post by Woods. Thus, the False Statement has been seen not only by Defendants' thousands of followers, but possibly by Woods' 238,512 followers on his Twitter account -- and even more since it is accessible to anyone that does a Google search. In short, the False Statement has been published for hundreds of thousands of people to see, which includes friends, family, potential employers, business associates, colleagues, and fans of Woods.
12. The above-pled misconduct by AL constitutes the tort of defamation.
13. Woods is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendants intentionally portrayed Woods in the above manner knowing that the depiction was false, without any reasonable grounds for believing it to be true.
14. Persons who read the False Statement posted to the AL Twitter Account by Defendants and with use of Woods' name as part of the False Statement, reasonably understood the references to "@ReaIJamesWoods" and "James Woods" to be references to the actor James Woods herein.
15. The AL Twitter Account contains the False Statement of the Defendants and contains a fabricated, false, malicious and defamatory statement of fact of and concerning Woods as alleged hereinabove.
16. The AL Twitter Account, which is based on and comprised of the False Statement from Defendants, is libelous on its face and is defamation per se, because it claims that Woods has engaged in criminal conduct. As such, the False Statement clearly exposes Woods to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy, and/or causes Woods to be shunned or avoided, and has a tendency to injure him in his personal life and occupation.
17. As a direct and proximate result of the aforementioned acts by Defendants, and each of them, Defendants have caused harm to Woods, which includes, but is not limited to general and special, damages in an amount not presently known but believed to be not less than Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000), including damage to Woods' reputation and standing in the community as a result of Defendants' actions.
18. Woods is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that the aforementioned acts of Defendants were done intentionally or with a conscious disregard of Woods' rights, and with the intent to vex, injure or annoy Woods, such as to constitute oppression, fraud, or malice thus entitling Woods to exemplary and punitive damages in an amount appropriate to punish or set an example of Defendants, and each of them, and to deter such conduct in the future, which amount will be proved at trial.SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
(Invasion of Privacy by False Light Against All Defendants)
19. Woods repeats, re-alleges, adopts and incorporates each and every allegation contained in paragraphs 1 through 18 inclusive, as though fully set forth herein.
20. The above-pled misconduct by Defendants, or any of them, constitutes the tort of invasion of privacy by false light, in that Defendants have placed Woods before the public in a false and outrageous light, which is highly offensive to Woods, and have thereby violated Woods' right of privacy.
21. As is alleged hereinabove, Defendants, and each of them, made and caused to be published the False Statement of and concerning Woods, and disseminated it to third parties around the world via the Internet. Defendants either knew that the False Statement was false, or published the False Statement with reckless disregard of the falsity of the False Statement and the false light that Woods would be placed as a result thereof. To the extent that the trier of fact finds that this False Statement is not defamatory, Woods is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Defendants intended to depict Woods in a false, fictionalized and sensationalized light in order to benefit themselves through some cowardly form of revenge for having expressed his personal views and/or for the sole purpose of harming Woods.
22. The false light in which Defendants, and each of them, have placed Woods by virtue of the False Statement would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. By publishing and/or disseminating the False Statement on websites, including on the AL Twitter Account, and in internet search engine results published or displayed nationwide or worldwide, and by publishing the False Statement in the manner and context in which it has been published, Defendants have outrageously and without any basis whatsoever falsely represented and implied that Woods is, among other false things, a "cocaine addict."
23. Woods is embarrassed and distressed that family, friends, fans, potential employers, business associates and the general public, saw this False Statement in the manner and context in which the False Statement was published with the false representation and inference, which is alleged herein. In fact, Woods has over 238,512 people that follow his Twitter account, all of which had access to the False Statement.
24. As a direct and proximate result of said wrongful conduct by Defendants, and each of them, Woods suffered shame, mortification, hurt feelings, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, and injury to his peace of mind (although not severe, disabling emotional distress), all to Woods' general damage in an amount not presently known but believed to be not less than Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000), including damage to Woods' reputation and standing in the community as a result of Defendants' actions. When Woods ascertains the exact amount of said damages, he will seek leave of Court to amend this Complaint to set forth said amount.
25. As a further direct and proximate result of said wrongful conduct by Defendants, and each of them, Woods has suffered general and special damages including, but not limited to, damage to his business, profession, reputation, character and property, which will most likely result in loss of employment, loss or reduction in earnings and profits in an amount which has yet to be ascertained, and will result in Woods not been given certain jobs. When Woods ascertains the exact amount of said damages, he will seek leave of Court to amend this Complaint to set forth said amount.
26. Woods is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that the aforementioned acts of Defendants, and each of them, were done intentionally or with a conscious disregard of Wood's' rights, and with the intent to vex, injure or annoy Woods, such as to constitute oppression, fraud, or malice, and that they had knowledge of, or acted in reckless disregard of the rights of Woods, and the false light in which Woods would be placed, thus entitling Woods to exemplary and punitive damages in an amount appropriate to punish or set an example of Defendants, and each of them, and to deter such conduct in the future, which amount will be proved at trial.PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Woods respectfully requests the following relief:
AS TO THE FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION:
I. General and special damages against Defendants, and each of them, jointly and severally, in an amount not less than Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000), or according to proof, together with interest thereon at the legal rate;
2. Exemplary and punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish and deter Defendants, the exact sum in an amount to be determined as appropriate to the Court;AS TO THE SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION:
3. General arid special damages against Defendants, and each of them, jointly and severally, in an amount not less than Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000), or according to proof, together with interest thereon at the legal rate;
4. Exemplary and punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish and deter Defendants, the exact sum in an amount to be determined as appropriate to the Court;
AS TO ALL CAUSES OF ACTION:
17. For costs of the suit incurred;
18. For attorneys' fees, if allowed by law;
19. For pre-judgment interest on all such damages at the legal rate; and
20. For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
Dated: July 29, 2015
LAVELY & SINGER
MICHAEL E. WEINSTEN
EVAN N. SPIEGEL
By: MICHAEL E. WEINSTEN
Attorneys for Plaintiff James WoodsREQUEST FOR A JURY TRIAL
Plaintiff hereby requests a trial by jury in the above action.
Dated: July 29, 2015
LAVELY & SINGER
MICHAEL E. WEINSTEN
EVAN N. SPIEGEL
LIND SA MOLNAR
By: MICHAEL E. WEINSTEN
Attorneys for Plaintiff James Woods