A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Netflix this Tuesday surrounding the streaming service’s apparent failure to warn audiences about the suggestive content in the show, 13 Reasons Why, via The Hollywood Reporter. The suit was brought upon Netflix by John Herndon, whose daughter sadly died from suicide. Herndon alleges that the show’s shocking season one ending where Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford (Knives Out, Spontaneous), commits suicide, triggered his daughter to do it herself.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed the case because there is a law that allows the dismissal of claims that infringe upon protected speech. Gonzalez Rogers ultimately ruled that Netflix can not be held accountable for recommending the show to viewers and those viewers’ subsequent actions.
“This is a tragic case,” Gonzalez Rogers said in an article from The Hollywood Reporter. “But ultimately, I don’t think that it survives.”
According to court filings, Netflix pointed out that restricting one piece of creative content would lead to them restricting all pieces of content on their service.
“Creators obligated to shield certain viewers from expressive works depicting suicide would inevitably censor themselves to avoid the threat of liability,” lawyers for Netflix wrote in the court filings. “This would dampen the vigor and limit the variety of public debate.”
Ryan Hamilton, the lawyer representing Herndon and his daughter’s estate, attempted to make the argument that the overall lawsuit was not about the service’s content, which in turn wouldn’t make it a first amendment issue, but instead was about Netflix’s algorithm that targets viewers based on their demographics and watch history to recommend content to those viewers better.
“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,” Hamilton said in the same THR article.
Gonzalez Rogers still sided with Netflix on the grounds that “it’s impossible to “disassociate and untangle the content of that show” from the claims in the complaint.
“If you attempted to sue on the grounds that you didn’t want the content of the show to be disseminated, you’d lose,” Gonzalez Rogers said.
Netflix declined to comment on the story to THR, but Gonzalex Rogers did give Hamilton and the Herndon estate till Jan. 18 to respond with an amended complaint if they want to continue to try and sue.