A judge has dismissed the defamation portion of a lawsuit by a Los Angeles-based photographer that was based on a 2020 altercation with Hillary Duff where she posted a video on social media and called it a “creep”.
The original incident took place in 2020. The photographer, Darryl Wilkins, claims he was taking pictures of children playing football to test out his new camera gear when the actress approached him and asked him to ‘Stop.
When the photographer refused, Duff, who was recording his exchange, posted the video to Instagram and called Wilkins a creep and accused him of stalking minors. The video received over two million views and 200,000 likes, so it wasn’t long before Wendy Williams’ talk show picked up the story and the incident received national attention.
In February last year, Wilkins filed a libel suit seeking unspecified “general, specific and punitive damages” against Fox Broadcasting and Williams’ production company, Talk WW Production Inc., claiming that Duff and Williams had used innuendo and their celebrity platforms in ways that damaged his reputation.
Wilkins argues in the lawsuit that Duff made “false defamatory statements because Wilkins is not a pedophile or child predator and was attempting to take pictures as a photographer and not as a paparazzi or a stalker or with a malicious intent or wrongdoing”.
Last week, however, the judge disagreed and tentatively dismissed the defamation portion of the case, citing free speech and California’s Strategic Public Participation Lawsuits Act (SLAPP) which is designed to prevent lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits to intimidate those who exercise their First Amendment rights.
The dismissal is only a partial victory for Williams and Duff, however, pending a hearing scheduled for September 7. But in his ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra challenged the photographer, who did not show up for Friday’s preliminaries. hearing and granted the defense’s motion to dismiss after concluding that the excuse for the photographer’s absence was “completely lacking”.
“As such, plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to constitute libel or slander,” Judge Upinder wrote.
The judge went on to state that the evidence from the Williams Show segment completely lacked sufficient facts and constituted more opinion than anything else.
“…watching the transcript of the video noticed by Justice, the only comment made on ‘The Wendy Williams Show’ about the plaintiff allegedly being mean is that the plaintiff’s actions were ‘frightening,’” Judge Upinder wrote in decision. “As the defendants’ motion indicates, the only statement made by Williams is that (Wilkins’) actions were ‘frightening’.”
It’s unclear if the interim ruling will ultimately allow Duff to use her platform to call Wilkins a creep with the video she posted. However, Judge Upinder’s ruling makes it clear that Williams and Fox are not guilty of slandering Wilkins with the segment that appeared on his syndicated talk show.
“Whether or not someone’s actions are ‘frightening’ are opinions,” Upinder’s decision concluded.
Picture credits: Portrait of Hilary Duff in the header illustration by VOGUE Taiwan and licensed under CC BY 3.0