Supreme Court Declines to Hear Olivia de Havilland’s Appeal in ‘Feud’ Case

Written January 8, 2019

The Supreme Court on January 7, 2019, refused to hear Olivia de Havilland’s right-of-publicity suit against FX Networks, the creators and producers of the television docudrama miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan. Havilland v. FX Networks LLC, U.S., No. 18-453, 1/7/19.

De Havilland said she did not give her permission to the creators of “Feud” to use her name, identity, or image; and argued that the show defamed her and cast her in a false light. FX filed a special motion to strike the lawsuit under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, as their portrayal of Havilland was fanciful and imaginative, yet the trial court rejected the motion. However, the California Court of Appeals disagreed, stating the trial court’s ruling “leaves authors, filmmakers, playwrights, and television producers in a Catch-22” because the producers would face a right-of-publicity suit if they portrayed Havilland accurately and realistically without compensating her, or as they do here. The California Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.