(UPDATED WITH RESPONSE FROM NETFLIX) No one expects the legal battle between Netflix and Fox over the latter’s allegations that the streaming service “illegally” poached of its two executives to end any time soon but a new twist today might speed things up – or at least force a definition on how enforceable employment contracts really are in the Golden State.
“Netflix has no standing whatsoever to bring the claims in the cross-complaint,” Fox declares bluntly in a filing today in LA Superior Court (read it here). Back in September, 20th Century Fox and Fox 21 sued the streaming service for intentional interference with contractual relations for snaring Marco Waltenberg and Tara Flynn, even though both execs were still under contract with Fox.
Almost three months after first getting into the legal ring against Netflix, Fox Wednesday took an anti-SLAPP motion swing to down the House of Cards home’s October 19 counterclaims of “unlawful and anti-competitive business practices” by the studio. A swing punctuated by the California law to TKO unnecessary lawsuits based on First Amendment protected speech – and one that could see an appeal moving the whole dispute up to higher courts as Fox seeks a January 9 hearing in front of Judge Gerald Rosenberg on their motion.
“Netflix’s position not only seeks to inhibit-indeed, prevent-Fox from exercising its Constitutionally-protected rights, it is also a direct attack on the California Labor Code (and its antecedent provisions), which for more than one century has explicitly recognized the validity of fixed-term employment contracts,” the filing at the Santa Monica Courthouse declares. “Netflix makes no Constitutional or interpretative challenge to the Labor Code-rather, it audaciously asks the Court to disregard the law or create new limitations and conditions on the validity and enforceability of fixed-term contracts,” Fox adds in the procedural move. “The Court has no power to do what Netflix asks. Netflix’s cross-complaint belongs in the Legislature, not the Courthouse.”
That may be, but it’ll be the courthouse early next year that calls where this move takes the case and potentially employment deals in the state next.
Daniel Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers LLP is representing the Fox parties in the matter along with the firm’s Molly Lens and J. Hardy Ehlers. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP’s Lynne Hermle and Karen Johnson-McKewan are representing Netflix.