Hercules director Brett Ratner’s defamation case against a woman who accused him on rape in an online posting survived a potential dismissal today but he’ll have to overcome a big legal yardstick before anything moves to trial.
In a hearing on Thursday in federal court in Hawaii, U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor denied Melanie Kohler’s attempt to toss out Ratner’s November 1 filed action. However, before almost anything more happens in the matter the judge also told Ratner and his attorney’s that the Tower Heist helmer will have to meet the high standards of California’s anti-SLAPP statute and show that he has a good chance of actually proving successful in the case.
“The Parties shall meet and confer about the scope of the limited discovery necessary for Plaintiff to respond to Defendant’s Special Motion to Strike pursuant to the California anti-SLAPP statute,” said instructions published on the court docket after today’s hearing. “If the Parties are unable to come to an agreement, Plaintiff shall file a Brief of no more than ten pages on or before Wednesday, February 28, 2018,” she added. “The Brief shall set forth the discovery that Plaintiff wishes to conduct in order to establish a reasonable probability that he will prevail on his defamation claim.”
“Defendant shall file a Brief in Response of no more than ten pages on or before Wednesday, March 21, 2018,” Judge Gillmor also ordered.
In a since removed Facebook post of October 20, Kohler wrote that Ratner “was a rapist on at least one night in Hollywood about 12 years ago.” She went on to assert that the director “preyed on me as a drunk girl [and] forced himself upon me.” Facing probing media coverage over other accusations of sexual harassment from Natasha Henstridge, Olivia Munn and several other women plus the loss of his first-look deal with Warner Bros., Ratner went on the offensive in the 50th state.
Citing Kohler’s post as “false, fabricated and fictional,” he sued for a wide variety of damages and claimed his professional reputation have been shredded by the rape claim. Kohler responded on January 3 that the RatPac producer’s legal move was pure bullying, “in an apparent effort to intimidate other women from speaking out.”
On Thursday, with the dismissal dead for the time being, both sides claimed some degree of victory in the case.
We are pleased that the Court denied Melanie Kohler’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and validated the sufficiency of Mr. Ratner’s defamation claim against her,” said Ratner’s main lawyer Andrew Brettler. “We look forward to litigating this case on the merits,” the Lavely & Singer attorney noted. “Unlike Ms. Kohler and her attorneys, we do not intend to try this case in the media. So it is clear, this lawsuit was never about silencing women, but rather about holding Ms. Kohler responsible for the false and defamatory statements she made about Mr. Ratner.”
“We won something today far broader than a dismissal,” Kohlar’s primary attorney Robbie Kaplan asserted in a statement to Deadline on Thursday. “Today the judge ruled that the strongest anti-SLAPP law in the country, California’s, applied to Mr. Ratner’s claim against Ms. Kohler. This means that Mr. Ratner now must prove that he has a probability of succeeding in trial and we are confident he can’t do that, because, quite simply, our client is telling the truth.”
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