Franziska Krug/Action Press/ZUMApress.com
A freelancer's decision to hang with Heath Ledger, rather than report on him, has earned her the right to sue with him in mind.
A Los Angeles judge on Monday greenlighted a revised lawsuit brought by an unidentified woman who claims that she was caught on tape by two paparazzi as they secretly shot Ledger.
"She was acting like a star-struck fan rather than as a celebrity reporter," L.A. Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley said in his ruling. "This is real Hollywood socializing."
Getting to meet Ledger was, for the plaintiff, a "smitten fan's dream come true. She's going to hang out with a movie star like any other fan of this star might think was a good thing to do."
Apparently the plaintiff, who referred to herself solely as "Jane Doe" in her complaint, was right in emphasizing her role as an innocent partyer as opposed to a scoop-seeking reporter when she refiled her complaint Sept. 18—after Wiley had thrown out 11 of 12 counts at defendant Splash News' behest.
The agency had argued that the only privacy possibly violated was Ledger's, and that the woman had no standing to make the claim herself.
The woman alleges that two Splash News photographers, one of whom she was dating at the time, bought cocaine in advance of meeting up Jan. 29, 2006 with Ledger at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood during a SAG Awards afterparty.
The photogs then invited the Brokeback Mountain star up to a room reserved by the plaintiff and secretly filmed the actor, she claims. The tape, which was sold to Entertainment Tonight and The Insider but never aired in light of Ledger's death by accidental overdose, showed him drinking a beer and talking about drugs, but it wasn't clear whether he actually used cocaine.
According to the lawsuit, the shutterbugs promised to throw away the tape after an angry Ledger found out what they were up to, but instead put it in their car and proceeded to disseminate the footage—a possible case of fraud, according to the judge.
Wiley—who previously had doubted the plaintiff's expectation of privacy in such a situation—stated that Jane Doe's expectations of privacy as a fan, rather than as a reporter, were "different, very different" from what he had determined before.
"We were, as expected, completely victorious," her attorney, Neville L. Johnson, told reporters. "Any reasonable jury will be shocked at the [defendants'] conduct."
As it stands, the lawsuit alleges fraud and deceit, intrusion, violation of common-law right of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages.