Netflix hits out at ‘real Martha’ lawsuit with Baby Reindeer defence

Netflix has made a rare comment on the Baby Reindeer scandal after being sued by the “real Martha” – and has subtly hit out at controversy surrounding her alleged depiction in the show.

It was revealed on Thursday (6 June) that Scottish law graduate Fiona Harvey, who believes she inspired the character played by Jessica Gunning in Richard Gadd’s hit series, was suing Netflix for $50m (£39m).

The development comes after Harvey spoke about her alleged depiction while being controversially interviewed by Piers Morgan last month.

Netflix has come under fire since the hugely successful biographical series, written by and starring comedian Gadd, was released on 11 April, with many questioning the effectiveness of the streaming service’s safeguarding protocols.

As more and more armchair detectives attempted to find the real-life figures who inspired the series, the otherwise acclaimed Baby Reindeer received a backlash, with many asking whether more safeguarding measures could have been enacted to prevent viewers from being able to identify them.

The series follows struggling comic Donny Dunn (Gadd) as he is relentlessly harassed and stalked by Martha Scott (Jessica Gunning) for more than four years and, since the show’s premiere, it has become a word-of-mouth sensation.

As the show rose up the service’s most-watched charts, viewers attempted to discover the real-life inspirations behind the show’s controversial characters, including Martha, in a move that Gadd himself criticised.

Gadd was also been forced to shut down speculation surrounding the real-life identity of a character that groomed and sexually assaulted him – a traumatic event from Gadd’s life – as it led to false accusations being made by curious viewers.

Netflix remained silent on the subject – but after Harvey filed her lawsuit against the service, a spokesperson said: “We intend to defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.”

In another apparent response, Netflix appeared to subtly hit out at Harvey’s lawsuit by doubling down on their support of the show by releasing Gunning’s audition tape for Martha.

Jessica Gunning as Martha in ‘Baby Reindeer’ (Netflix)
Jessica Gunning as Martha in ‘Baby Reindeer’ (Netflix)

Harvey – who warned in May that she planned to take legal action against Netflix – reportedly alleges in the newly-filed lawsuit that she has been harassed by people across the world because of the series and failures by Netflix to sufficiently protect her identity.

The 58-year-old accuses the streaming giant of ruining her reputation with their depiction of Martha, arguing in the legal documents that she never stalked or sexually assaulted Gadd, and was not handed a criminal conviction for stalking.

Harvey’s lawyers are demanding a jury trial at the US District Court Central District Of California in a bid to seek “actual damages” of $50m (£39m), plus legal fee costs and statutory interest.