At 101, Olivia de Havilland’s Speedy Trial Request May Not Go As Planned In Suit Against FX, ‘Feud’


Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit may not go as smoothly as she had hoped.  On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge will hear Olivia de Havilland’s motion for an expedited trial in her lawsuit against FX over her depiction in Feud: Bette and Joan. She’s claiming in the suit that the Ryan Murphy series violated her publicity and privacy rights by featuring her likeness (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) in distasteful ways.


She also requests a trial as soon as November in advance of her 102nd birthday. An attorney for FX has suggested that January would give both sides more time to conduct discovery and prepare for trial, but there’s not any real opposition to the aging actress’ demand for an expedited trial. Even if a trial is scheduled in the coming months, however, the lack of drama over the trial date belies a looming procedural conundrum.


De Havilland is relying on a California statute  that allows parties who are 70 or older to petition for a swift trial. The purpose of the law is self-evident. Because of her advanced age, de Havilland faces prejudice if she were not able to participate in a trial because of declining health.


However, according to THR, FX has filed a motion  under California’s anti-SLAPP statute to strike her complaint. The SLAPP law is meant to deter frivolous court actions targeting First Amendment activity. FX contends that constitutional protections for using someone’s name or likeness in expressive speech like a motion picture or television program make her lawsuit a loser. Importantly, though, California’s SLAPP law provides an automatic right to an interlocutory appeal (one before trial). The purpose of that is to do everything to preserve free speech rights.

More to come.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP; FX
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