Forsterling, et al. v. A & E Television Networks, LLC, et al.
OPINION on Dismissal. A&E will be dismissed with prejudice. The plaintiffs will take nothing from Long Pond Media, LLC, Relativity TV, LLC, or A&E Television Networks, LLC. (Signed by Judge Lynn N Hughes) Parties notified. (ghassan, 4) Text modified on 3/10/2017 (ghassan, 4).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
Claudia Forsterling, et al.,
Af:rE TelevisIon Networks, LLC, et al.,
March 10, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
Civil Action H-I6-2941
Opinion on Dismissal
Two television production companies developed a reality show about a
pastor convincing prostitutes to leave their trade. A television network broadcast
the show. Three of the women whom the production companies filmed claimed
that they made promises that they did not keep. The production companies and
the network will prevail.
Long Pond Media, LLC, and Relativity 1V, LLC, produced a show about a
pastor persuading prostitutes to change their occupations. It was called 8
Minutes. Although eight episodes were filmed, only five aired. A&E Television
Networks, LLC, broadcast the show. Gina Mahan andJeanne Mosby appeared in
the show. Claudia F orsterling was filmed for an episode that never aired.
Before filming her episode, each woman met with the show's originators
or with producers from Long Pond and Relativity. Forsterling and Mahan said
that they told the producers about their problems, describing medical conditions,
struggles to pay rent and support families, and interest in finding better-paying
jobs or in returning to school. According to them, the producers promised that
they would take care of everything once the women appeared on the show.
F orsterling, Mahan, and Mosby said that the producers agreed to blur their faces.
Each signed an appearance release allowing Long Pond and Relativity to use her
appearance on the show. Only Forsterling' s release noted that her face was to be
blurred, and her episode never aired.
Long Pond and Relativity filed for bankruptcy. Forsterling, Mahan, and
Mosby petitioned the bankruptcy court to lift the stay, allowing them to pursue
their theories of fraudulent inducement and personal injury. They did not
mention theories of breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and negligent
misrepresentation. The estate owns those claims.
Forsterling, Mahan, and Mosby waived their fraudulent inducement and
invasion of privacy claims in their appearance releases.
Even if the stay had been lifted on the breach of contract, promissory
estoppel, and negligent misrepresentation theories, they are empty.
Breach of Contract.
F orsterling and Mahan pleaded that the producers told them that after
appearing on the show, they would help them pay the rent, secure better-paying
jobs, and pay medical bills. Forsterling, Mahan, and Mosby claimed that the
producers said that their faces would be blurred.
The written contracts say otherwise. Each appearance release says that
the woman agrees to appear on the show in exchange for a payment. Each also
says that it is the complete agreement and supersedes all others. I Forsterling's
agreement includes a handwritten note - "no face show." Despite Mahan and
Mosby's having said that the producers promised not to show their faces, their
agreements do not include a similar note.
The written contracts were not breached. Each woman was paid the
amount written. Long Pond and Relativity photographed Forsterling with the
cash in hand and Mosby with a receipt for the fee. Mahan is not pictured with
'See Restatement (Second) of Contracts §§209, 216, comment e.
her payment, but she does not dispute that Long Pond and Relativity paid her
the amount written. As demonstrated by F orsterling' s contract, if the producers
agreed to blur someone's face, that was included in writing.
Also, the promises as related are too vague to form a contract. Forsterling,
Mahan, and Mosby said that Long Pond and Relativity agreed to fix all their
problems, from health care to employment to housing. Vague assertions that the
production companies would take care of everything do not a contract make.
Overlooking the fact that Forsterling and Mahan signed appearance
releases that did not include what they said the producers promised, they did not
plead facts that support direct cash losses from relying on the producers'
supposed promises. Their facts support only expectation losses. They said that
Long Pond and Relativity promised them help with housing, employment, and
medical care and that they did not keep these promises. Even if this were true,
Forsterling and Mahan suffered no pecuniary loss. In preparing for their
appearances, they did not materially change their positions in a way that caused
a direct monetary loss. They lost only what they expected to gain.
As above, Forsterling and Mahan did not plead facts that support
pecuniary reliance losses. Despite signing an appearance release to the contrary,
Mosby insists that Long Pond and Relativity said that they would blur her face.
If true, this is a breach of contract or fraud, not negligence. She has not shown
that she lost money by her face appearing on the show.
Also, the promissory estoppel and negligent misrepresentation claims
simply recast the fraudulent inducement claim that Forsterling, Mahan, and
Nothing Long Pond and Relativity did was extreme or outrageous. At
most, Long Pond and Relativity did two things: they told Forsterling and Mahan
that they would help them with housing, employment, and medical care, then
did not; and they told Mahan and Mosby that they would blur their faces, then
Long Pond and Relativity did not set out to harm F orsterling, Mahan, and
Mosby. They did what the contracts permitted - included these women in the
The Texas Citiz;ens Participation Act is a statute to counter "strategic
lawsuits against public participation" - anti-SLAPP. It is -like failure to state a
claim - a ground for dismissal. If the show was on a topic of public concern and
F orsterling, Mahan, and Mosby did not plead their claims with clear and specific
evidence, the court must dismiss the case.
Forsterling, Mahan, and Mosby sued because of a reality television show.
Producing the show was an exercise of free speech on a topic of public concern.2.
This category is not limited to documentaries and newspapers. The show was
reality television; the women filmed multiple takes, and the producers dramatiz;ed
parts of the story. What matters is that the show addressed human trafficking
and prostitution, highlighting the potential dangers of the trade. Like other large
cities, Houston is a destination for human trafficking, and it has been trying to
address the problem. In 2015, the Texas legislature enacted legislation on human
Forsterling, Mahan, and Mosby did not establish their case by clear and
specific evidence relevant to their legal theories. 3
3TEX. CIV. PRAC.
& REM. CODE ANN. § 27.005 (West).
Because Forsterling, Mosby, and Mahan did not plead facts to support
plausible legal theories, this case will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. 4
Conversely, this motion to dismiss followed an amended complaint that
the defendants had answered. Taking it as a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, Forsterling, Mosby, and Mahan will take nothing from Long Pond,
Relativity, or A&E.
A&E only broadcast the show. It did not produce the show. Forsterling,
Mahan, and Mosby had no contact with anyone from A&E, nor did they have an
agreement with it.
Because Long Pond and Relativity are not vicariously liable, A&E cannot
be vicariously liable. Vicarious liability is not a substantive legal theory. A&E will
A&E will be dismissed with prejudice. Claudia F orsterling,l eanne Mosby,
and Gina Mahan will take nothing from Long Pond Media, LLC, Relativity TV,
liC, or A&E Television Networks, LLC.
Signed on March
at Houston, Texas.
Lynn N. Hughes'
United States DistrictJudge
4See Ashcroft 11. Iqbal, 556 U.s. 662. (2.009); Bell Atlantic Corporation 11. Twombry, 550 U.s.
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