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Bryan Freedman Beats Defamation Lawsuit From Michael Kassan Over UTA Case

Bryan Freedman Beats Defamation Lawsuit From Michael Kassan Over UTA Case

Bryan Freedman, the lawyer representing UTA in a clash over Michael Kassan’s departure from the agency, has prevailed in a lawsuit accusing him of defaming the MediaLink founder.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy, in an order issued on Tuesday, dismissed the case under a statute allowing for the early dismissal of lawsuits intended to chill free speech. He found that a comment from Freedman aimed at Kassan can only be construed as opinion, which can’t make up the basis of a defamation claim.

Sanford Michelman, a lawyer for Kassan, said in a statement, “Freedman’s defense was that everyone knows he blusters and is not truthful, therefore proving our point.” He added, “He is unable to stop Mr. Kassan from competing and now he’s unable to tarnish” his client’s reputation.

The lawsuit was an offshoot of a legal dispute that erupted in March when Kassan claimed that he resigned from UTA after being lied to about his powers at the agency and the company asserting that it fired him for misusing funds. In an arbitration action initiated by Kassan against UTA, naming chief executive Jeremy Zimmer, he alleged that UTA fraudulently induced him to agree to a sale of MediaLink “only to then walk back the very promises made” regarding what he would oversee at the agency and allowances for his special expenses budget. He resigned on March 6, allegedly preempting the agency terminating him the next day.

A lawsuit from UTA followed, proceeded by a complaint filed by Kassan accusing Freedman of trying to tarnish his reputation at the direction of agency in a bid to prevent employees and clients from following him to his next venture. The allegedly defamatory statements concerned Freedman calling Kassan a “pathological liar.”

The court concluded that Kassan’s defamation claims “fail as a matter of law and have no probability of success” because Freedman’s comments can’t be understood as “anything other than a nonactionable statement of opinion.”

Critical to the judge’s analysis was that the statements were made in a “highly publicized, contentious dispute” between Kassan and UTA involving mudslinging in both direction. The context is critical, Murphy said, because it “shows that the statement was made in an adversarial setting and heated dispute wherein the participants were expected to use epithets and hyperbole which an average reader would not take as fact.”

In other cases, courts have found that accusations similar to calling someone a “liar” doesn’t rise to defamation.

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Freedman didn’t respond to a request for comment, while UTA declined comment.

Last week, Kassan prevailed in a bid to move to arbitration a lawsuit from UTA looking to block him from setting up a new venture after his exit from the agency. He’s expect to appear at Cannes Lions next month.

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