‘Real-life Martha’ from Baby Reindeer sues Netflix for $170M over ‘biggest lie in television history’

The woman claiming to be the stalker portrayed in the Netflix hit Baby Reindeer has brought a  $170 million lawsuit against the streaming giant.

Fiona Harvey is suing Netflix, arguing the show falsely accuses her of being a convicted stalker and has left her with severe emotional distress, unable to leave her home.

Richard Gadd created Baby Reindeer after a successful stage run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It has proved a hit on the platform and currently ranks in the top 10 streamed shows on Netflix.

The show follows Donny Dunn, a stand-up comedian and bartender who offers a woman named Martha a free cup of tea at the bar he works at in Camden, out of sympathy. Martha proceeds to send Dunn a flurry of emails and to stalk him.

But Harvey, who claims to be the real-life inspiration behind the Martha character, is now pursuing Netflix for a nine-figure defamation claim.

‘Biggest lie in television history’

At the beginning of the series, Baby Reindeer is described as a “true story” by its creator.

This, Harvey’s lawyer argued in a lawsuit filed in California Thursday, is the “biggest lie in television history.”

“It is a lie told by Netflix and the show’s creator, Richard Gadd, out of greed and lust for fame; a lie designed to attract more viewers, get more attention, to make more money, and to viciously destroy the life of Plaintiff, Fiona Harvey – an innocent woman defamed by Netflix and Richard Gadd at a magnitude and scale without precedent,” the lawyers wrote.

A representative for Netflix didn’t immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment. A spokesperson told the FT that the streaming giant intends to “defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story.”

The ‘real’ Martha

Gadd has never confirmed that Martha is based on Harvey. 

Speaking to Variety, Gadd said the series was “all emotionally 100% true,” but described how elements of the show were fabricated for narrative purposes, while names were changed to protect people’s identities. 

He added that Martha had to be different from his alleged real-life stalker for legal reasons.

However, once the show aired, fans were quick to begin connecting the dots between the events described in Baby Reindeer and Gadd’s own life, with Harvey the first casualty.

A reference in the show to “hanging curtains” was discovered in a tweet sent by Harvey to Gadd in 2014. 

Lawyers say that after this revelation, Harvey was swarmed with messages and calls asking if she was the real-life inspiration for Martha.

“Harvey is fearful of leaving her home or checking the news. As a direct result of Baby Reindeer, Harvey has become extremely secluded and isolated, in fear of the public, going days without leaving her home,” lawyers wrote.

Harvey maintains she didn’t stalk Gadd, and that the fact she claims to have been identified as the real face behind Martha amounts to defamation.

As the series progresses, Gadd’s character develops a mutual obsession with Martha when she goes silent after he goes to the police. Lawyers have pointed to these instances to enforce their defamation claims.

The lawyers also argue Netflix failed to do any due diligence and failed to contact Harvey to confirm whether she was a convicted stalker, which the character Martha is.

The $170 million claim includes actual and compensatory damages, the proceeds of profits made from Baby Reindeer, and punitive damages.

There has also been speculation as to the origins of Darrien O’Connor, a producer who abuses Gadd’s character throughout the series. Gadd was forced to publicly defend one producer after fans began speculating online that he was the inspiration for Darrien.

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