A judge who previously dismissed racial harassment and emotional distress claims filed against “A Haunted House 2” star Marlon Wayans awarded the actor $96,000 in attorneys’ fees Friday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko tossed Pierre Daniel’s case on Dec. 31, finding that the plaintiff had not met the legal standards for the case to go forward. Wayans’ attorneys then filed a motion to have their client reimbursed for having to hire them to get the case thrown out.
Wayans’ lawyers asked for $114,600, but the judge said he reduced the award based on his analysis of the lawyers’ expenses and time sheets.
“I looked at it carefully,” Ongkeko said. “Attorneys’ fees are not a slam-dunk in this court.”
Daniel’s attorney, Tessa White, argued for a further reduction, saying she doubted it took three attorneys to prepare the case dismissal request. But one of Wayans’ lawyers, Celeste Brecht, said the motion was not of a “cookie- cutter” variety and involved many hours of work.
Wayans’ lawyers argued the claims against their client should be dismissed, because they infringed on his right to free speech. Daniel’s attorneys are appealing Ongkeko’s ruling.
Daniel alleged in a suit filed Aug. 25 that Wayans subjected him to offensive language about his race and unfavorably compared him to an animated character. Both are black. Daniel’s case can proceed against other parties he sued, including producer IM Global Octane, but ongoing discovery in the case may have to await the outcome of the appeal.
According to the lawsuit, in September 2013 Wayans tweeted photos of Daniel — an extra in “A Haunted House 2” — and Cleveland Brown, an animated character from the television show “Family Guy” and its spinoff “The Cleveland Show.” Daniel alleged Wayans used a caption that said the plaintiff resembled the character. He also maintained the actor made fun of his hair, mustache and weight.
Wayans’ attorneys argued that the part of the case against the actor/comedian should be tossed because his actions — which included the use of the “N” word and a slang variation of it — were done as part of making and promoting “A Haunted House 2.”
King said Wayans posted the photos of her client on the actor’s website and on his Twitter account for commercial reasons and that therefore the speech was not protected.
— City News Service