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Lawsuits & Litigation

Netflix Won’t Get Break in “Making a Murderer” Defamation Lawsuit

— June 2, 2021

The lawsuit was filed by a former Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy who claims “Making a Murderer” ruined his reputation.

A federal court in Wisconsin will not dismiss a defamation lawsuit against Netflix, filed by a former Manitowoc County Sheriff’s sergeant who was featured in the “Making a Murderer” docuseries.

According to WBAY News, the lawsuit was filed by Andrew L. Colborn in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

In his complaint, Colborn alleges that “Making a Murderer’s” depiction of the trials and convictions of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey is “biased and falsely depicts him as having framed Avery for the” murder of Teresa Halbach.

Since the series went live on Netflix’s website, Colborn says he has received an “onslaught of threats and criticism.”

WBAY notes that Colborn’s lawsuit accuses Netflix of having committed defamation with “actual malice in order to make [their series] more profitable and more successful in the eyes of their peers.”

While Netflix sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, U.S. District Judge Brett H. Ludwig found that Colborn had adequately pleaded his claims for defamation, as well as the intention infliction of emotional distress.

In their petition, Netflix attorneys alleged that Colborn had not served the company with notice of his lawsuit in a timely manner. Netfflix also claimed that the statute of limitations had run out for Colborn to make his defamation claim.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“As this Court has already ruled in denying Netflix’s first motion to dismiss and in rejecting Netflix’s opposition to Colborn’s motion for leave to file the Second Amended Complaint, his latest pleading adequately and plausibly pleads these elements, including actual malice Having failed to convince the Court of the inadequacy of Colborn’s allegations, Netflix shifts gears and offers a series of arguments for rejecting Colborn’s claims as a matter of law,” Ludwig wrote in his order. “These latest contentions fail foremost because they are rife with factual assertions and would require the Court to make inferences (if not flat-out factual findings) in Netflix’s favor, turning the motion to dismiss standard on its head.”

However, Ludwig observed that process servers had made several attempts to deliver notice of Colborn’s action to Netflix—meaning that the former sheriff’s sergeant and his attorneys had met their legal obligation of “reasonable deligigence.”

Consequently, Ludwig refused to dismiss the lawsuit, which will carry forth in federal court. Ludwig emphasized that his refusal to dismiss Colborn’s defamation claim does not reflect on the merits of the suit.

“Whether Colborn can muster sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Netflix and the other defendants defamed him with “actual malice” remains to be seen,” Ludwig stated. “But until the summary judgment is complete, it would be improper for the Court to resolve this issue.”


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