HBO responds in court to 'Luck' lawsuit

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Image Credit: Gusmano Cesaretti/HBO

HBO isn’t ready to back down in the legal case against Luck.

Barbara Casey, the former American Humane Association employee who claims she was fired for speaking out about the HBO show’s treatment of its horses, took legal action in January, claiming wrongful termination against the AHA, but also accusing HBO, along with Stewart Productions, which produced the show, of aiding and abetting an alleged animal abuse cover-up. (The cable network canceled its racetrack drama in March 2012 following a PETA protest and the death of three horses.)

HBO and Stewart Productions replied to that lawsuit with a demurrer that they filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court last week. The demurrer isn’t a response to accusations of animal mistreatment but claims that HBO and Stewart Productions cannot be held liable for Casey’s alleged wrongful termination because they were not her employers and because the allegations in Casey’s lawsuit are not specific enough.

Court documents for the demurrer obtained by EW state, “Because the Production Defendants were not Plaintiff’s employer, they cannot be bootstrapped into liability for the allegedly wrongful termination under a theory of ‘aiding and abetting’ in that termination.”

The demurrer also claims that Casey’s lawsuit “does not allege who at HBO or Stewart allegedly engaged in tortious behavior and what authority those persons had to act on behalf of either of them, what advice HBO or Stewart allegedly provided to the AHA relating to Plaintiff’s termination, how HBO or Stewart allegedly ‘encouraged’ or ‘assisted’ the AHA in terminating Plaintiff, or what sort of ‘moral support’ HBO or Stewart allegedly provided to the AHA. Without pleading such facts, the allegations in [Casey’s complaint] against the Production Defendants are wholly unsupported, and the cause of action should be dismissed.”

Casey was the director of production on the AHA’s film and TV unit. She served as a liaison between the non-profit animal rights organization and production companies. In her lawsuit, she said that Luck‘s horses were drugged, underweight, and/or sick during production. She also claimed that “in order to save time and money [the defendants engaged in] direct criminal animal abuse and cruelty … [and] pressured AHA to allow them to violate AHA’s safety standards… [and to] allow the use of unsuitable horses in an attempt to ensure that sufficient numbers of horses would be available to meet its production demands.”

In a statement issued after Casey filed her lawsuit in January, HBO said, “We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA.”

Casey’s legal representative has not yet replied to EW’s request for comment about HBO’s demurrer.

Luck, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, aired its nine-episode first season in early 2012. A second season that was ordered immediately after the series premiere would have begun airing in January 2013 if the show had not been canceled.

Read more:
HBO cancels ‘Luck’ after third horse dies
HBO sued over ‘Luck’ horse deaths, accused of cover-up
‘Luck’ review: Dustin Hoffman, Michael Mann, David Milch, plus horses = more, please


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