If you watch Dance Moms online, you know Kelly Hyland is suing the show and its main star, Lee Miller, the dance studio shot-caller and show matriarch.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan stated she was inclined to toss out Hyland’s claim that Miller defamed her in the aftermath of an episode last year.
Defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case under California’s anti-SLAPP law protecting free speech. But attorneys representing Hyland argued otherwise.
They claim their clients were not properly compensated and that the contract between them and the series was unfairly slanted in favor of the production company.
Attorney Kelli Sager, on behalf of Collins, said Hyland was paid for every episode on which she appeared, and that simply, “is the deal she signed.”
“She’s just unhappy she was not on every week,” Sager said.
I do get really tired of the the, “I didn’t understand what I was signing” defense, which is the argument being made by Hyland in this case. For example, I have received a number of calls over the years from contestants on American Idol, wanting to sue because the show made them look foolish, after signing an agreement with the show that they would not sue for being made to look foolish.
Nonetheless, the case is interesting in the anti-SLAPP context because it is outside the normal analysis of protected speech. By that I mean, when I prevail on an anti-SLAPP motion, it is often because the speech was subject to, say, the litigation privilege. It is because of that privilege that the plaintiff cannot make the requisite showing that he, she or it is likely to prevail.
Here, the reason the plaintiff can’t prevail is simply because the contract prohibits it. No fancy privilege, just basic contract law.