Drunk reality show participant’s invasion of privacy claim stays in court, for now

Amirmotazedi v. Viacom, Inc., — F.Supp.2d —, 2011 WL 802134 (D.D.C. March 9, 2011)

Plaintiff sued the producers of The Real World (MTV, Viacom and Bunim-Murray Productions) for, among other things, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress over the way that the show portrayed her in an episode and in outtakes posted on the web. Defendants moved to dismiss, claiming that the plaintiff signed a release on the night she visited the Real World house, and that the release’s arbitration clause meant the case did not belong in court. The court denied the motion.

To argue against the enforceability of the arbitration provision, plaintiff asserted that she was so drunk on the night of the filming that she lacked the mental capacity to understand the significance of the arbitration provision. (This is called the voluntary intoxication defense.)

The court sided with plaintiff, finding that plaintiff’s mental capacity defense went to the question of formation, or the “making” of the agreement to arbitrate, thus under the Federal Arbitration Act, the question of the arbitration provision’s enforceability must be decided by the court. That’s not to say that the court won’t ultimately kick the case into arbitration. It’s just that the case stays before the court for now to determine whether plaintiff’s voluntary intoxication defense requires the agreement to be voided.

Related: California court invalidates Alienware arbitration provision in online terms and conditions

1 Comment

  1. While violence isn't involved here, what Forensic Psychiatrist Stanley Semrau, MD, says about the intoxication defense in his book, "Murderous Minds on Trial" might be of general interest. He writes:

    "The intoxication defence is guilty of aiding and abetting more responsibility-dodging than anything else I've seen in court. At the root of it is the old saw that "he was so drunk he didn't know what he was doing" — that is, didn't intend to do it. It has long been scientifically proven that alcohol can reduce inhibitions, erode judgment and exacerbate existing feelings (such as anger and paranoia), but it virtually never removes intent or motivation."

    The court's decision will be interesting. I hope you'll post the outcome.

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