Michael Kassan’s Defamation Suit Against UTA’s Lawyer Is Dismissed

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In a victory for trash-talking lawyers, a judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit against attorney Bryan Freedman, finding he did not defame ad exec Michael Kassan by calling Kassan a “pathological liar.”

Kassan sued in March, as one part of an acrimonious legal battle over his departure from United Talent Agency. Kassan claimed that Freedman, who represents UTA, “crossed the line” when he made the “shocking and defamatory” statement to Deadline.

Judge Daniel S. Murphy ruled that the comment was made in the context of a heated dispute in which epithets and hyperbole are to be expected. Given that, the judge found that Freedman was offering his opinion on Kassan’s character, and was not attempting to make a diagnosis.

“Freedman did not claim to be an expert in the field of psychology and did not make factual assertions about Kassan’s mental fitness,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy granted Freedman’s motion to strike the lawsuit under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which provides a mechanism to dispense with frivolous complaints meant to chill speech on matters of public concern.

Kassan sold his company, MediaLink, to UTA in 2021 for $125 million, and stayed on as a partner. The relationship collapsed in early March, as Kassan and UTA filed competing claims accusing each other of misconduct.

Kassan accused the company of violating their agreement, while UTA accused Kassan of lavish overspending. UTA also claimed that Kassan was fired for misappropriating company funds.

Kassan’s attorney shot back that Kassan had decided to leave to start a rival firm, and that UTA had offered a deal to keep him on the payroll. That prompted Freedman to claim that Kassan is a liar.

Judge Kerry Bensinger agreed last week to move UTA’s lawsuit against Kassan to arbitration.

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