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Creator of “Shitty Media Men” list cannot be sued for emotional distress – March 2019

New York, NY

A federal judge ruled that the creator of the notorious “Shitty Media Men” list cannot be sued for emotional distress.

Key Players

Moira Donegan is a New York-based writer who is an opinion columnist for The Guardian. She was the defendant in the lawsuit.

Stephen Elliott is also an American writer and was the plaintiff in the lawsuit. His name was on the “Shitty Media Men” spreadsheet in question.

Further Details

In October 2017, Donegan created a spreadsheet titled “Shitty Media Men.” It was intended to be a collection of names of men in the media industry who were rumored to have engaged in behaviors such as sexual assault, misconduct, or harassment. Donegan shared the spreadsheet with others so that they might add to it, and so that women could pass it through their social and professional circles to build awareness. Within hours of being posted, the spreadsheet went viral, forcing Donegan to take it down, though not before its contents were noted by various news outlets.

One of the men named on the spreadsheet, Stephen Elliott, sued Donegan for creating the document. Specifically, Elliott accused Donegan of defamation and emotional distress for suggesting he had committed rape, sexual harassment, and coercion. Elliott’s lawyers claimed that the spreadsheet was false and defamatory, and that Elliott, a writer and filmmaker, had lost professional opportunities and faced severe reputational damage in the aftermath of its release. The case is ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Outcome

Federal judge makes preliminary ruling

On March 1, 2019, U.S. District Judge Lashann DeArcy Hall ruled that Elliott cannot sue Donegan for “intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress,” according to Jezebel. Further, Judge DeArcy Hall explained to Elliott’s lawyers that they had until March 8, 2019 to re-plead the defamation aspect of their case. She noted that they must add allegations to the complaint in order to show Donegan’s “actual malice,” a critical legal component of any defamation case against a public figure. As of March 23, 2019, there were no further public developments in the legal proceedings.

External References

Court Rules That Shitty Media Men List Creator Can’t Be Sued for Emotional Distress, Questions Relevance of Her Tweets About ‘Hating Men’, Jezebel

Judge: Man Can’t Sue ‘Shitty Media Men’ Creator For Emotional Harm, Gothamist

Stephen Elliott’s Lawsuit Just Got a Major Blow, The Cut

Writer Who Appeared on ‘Media Men’ List Sues Its Creators, The New York Times

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded to Tracker March 27,  2019