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Judge poised to dismiss suit over photographer's encounter with Hillary Duff

KNX 1070 News Radio
KNX 1070 News Radio
 2022-05-06

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge today indicated he is poised to grant a motion by Fox Broadcasting Co. and Talk WW Production Inc., the producers of "The Wendy Williams Show," to dismiss a photographer's lawsuit alleging that he was libeled and slandered during an episode of Williams' show dealing with his 2020 encounter at a park with Hilary Duff.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra issued a tentative ruling dismissing plaintiff Darryl Wilkins' entire complaint on First Amendment grounds.

"Here, the complaint only alleges that the statements were disparaging and intimated that the plaintiff was a child predator," Kalra wrote. "However, when looking at the transcript of the judicially noticed video, the only comment made on `The Wendy Williams Show' about the plaintiff that would be unkind is that the plaintiff's actions were `creepy.' As such, the plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to constitute libel or slander."

The judge is scheduled to hear arguments Monday before issuing a final ruling.

When the suit was filed in February 2021, Duff and Williams were also named as defendants, but neither were ever served.

Wilkins encountered Duff, now 34, in a public park and the actress asked him not to photograph young children, including her 7-year-old son, as they played soccer, according to the defendants' court papers.

Duff recorded the encounter with Wilkins on her cell phone and posted the video to her Instagram page, where it became publicly disseminated and reported in the celebrity news media, with a portion being played during the "Hot Topics" segment of an episode of "The Wendy Williams Show" discussing celebrity news, according to the defendants' court papers.

Williams began a discussion of the Duff-Wilkins encounter, including opinions on whether Duff might have handled the encounter differently, according to the defendants' court papers. Williams said Wilkins' actions were "creepy to me," according to the defendants' court papers.

"Although plaintiff's complaint alleges Duff called him a `child predator,' there is no such statement made by anyone in the `Wendy' segment," according to the defendants' court papers.

In his tentative ruling, Kalra agreed that Williams was expressing an opinion of what she saw in Duff's video.

"As the defendants' motion indicates, the only statement made by Williams is that (Wilkins') actions were `creepy,"' the judge wrote. "Whether or not someone's actions are `creepy' are opinions."

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