Netflix Wins 13 Reasons Why Teen Suicide Lawsuit Battle
A judge has dismissed the lawsuit of a father who blamed his teenage daughter’s suicide on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.
While the first season of the coming-of-age series earned plaudits for tackling tough subject matter, it also sparked controversy for its graphic content; this includes bullying, sexual assault, rape, and its finale’s depiction of suicide. The show revolves around the death of Hannah (Katherine Langford), who leaves tapes detailing the reasons why she took her own life.
Netflix has since removed the scene and added trigger warnings to several episodes. However, John Herndon filed a class-action lawsuit against the company last August, believing his daughter Bella and ‘those similarly situated to her’ were harmed by the show.
Herndon said Bella, 15, ‘died as a result of the tortious acts and omissions of Netflix that caused, or at least substantially contributed to, her suicide’, and that Netflix’s algorithms honed in on vulnerable children and ‘manipulated them into watching content that was deeply harmful to them’. She died in April 2017.
Netflix’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Herndon’s lawsuit late last year. ‘Creators obligated to shield certain viewers from expressive works depicting suicide would inevitably censor themselves to avoid the threat of liability. This would dampen the vigour and limit the variety of public debate,’ they wrote, as per The Independent, expressing concern over the ‘censorship of creative works’, Metro reports.
The streaming giant also described the lawsuit as ‘fundamentally misguided’, citing the amount of time that had passed since Bella’s death and other movies and productions portraying teen suicide, such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Dead Poets Society and Dear Evan Hansen.
However, Herndon’s lawyer Ryan Hamilton argued, ‘What this case is about is the private targeting of vulnerable children and consequences that were not only foreseeable and were foreseen but that Netflix was warned about.’
Yesterday, January 11, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled in favour of Netflix. ‘This is a tragic case… but ultimately, I don’t think that it survives,’ she said.
While Netflix hasn’t commented on the lawsuit, it previously said its decision to remove the suicide scene was based on ‘the advice of medical experts’. The scene has not been available to view on Netflix since 2019.
The plaintiff has been given until January 18 to respond on whether he’d like to file an amended complaint.
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