Ralph Watson, the former Crispin Porter + Bogusky chief creative officer fired from that agency approximately one year ago, has filed the third in a series of defamation and wrongful termination lawsuits targeting both his former employer and, more prominently, the anonymous social media group Diet Madison Avenue.
AdAge first reported on the suit yesterday. We have embedded the full 17-page document, first filed on January 17, at the bottom of this post.
This filing closely resembles a suit filed against two Jane Does in California last May and moves the larger case into the state of New York, naming four Jane Does who allegedly reside there as well as one who lives in Illinois but has “sufficient minimum contacts to the State of New York as a result of his or her involvement in the events giving rise to this complaint” to be included, according to the document.
Watson demands a jury trial and “not less than $10,000,000” in damages, charging the named parties with defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, interference with his contract, tortious interference “with prospective economic advantage,” and negligent interference with the same.
5 more Jane Does
In the document, Watson claims to know the true identities of these five Jane Does, who the suit claims are among the “collective of at least seventeen (17) anonymous individual defendants” who made up DMA, or the “additional forty-two individuals [who] have provided assistance to Diet Madison Avenue.”
The filing states that, as in the California suit, Watson and his lawyer have chosen not to include their names so as to “protect the privacy of the individual[s] until a suitable protective order is reached by the parties and approved by the Court,” at which point they will be served, with their legal identities remaining redacted or under seal.
The bulk of the filing is almost identical to the previous suit with one exception: included among the defendants is “Doe Company,” described as “a Delaware business entity of unknown organization with its principal place of business being in New York.”
This company’s identity is unclear, though one may note that Facebook and all subsidiaries are incorporated in Delaware for tax purposes.
In the remainder of the document, Watson’s California-based attorney, Michael Ayotte, goes on to recount the events leading up to and following Watson’s termination, including the “highly inflammatory and false” statements, published on the DMA Instagram account, that accused him of sexual harassment before he was terminated, along with a “a further inflammatory and retaliatory statement falsely claiming that plaintiff allegedly ‘raped’ some anonymous individual.”
The filing also disputes CPB’s claim that Watson was fired for cause. The agency’s legal team has stated that his termination stemmed, at least in part, from “emails that were sent by Mr. Watson to female employees” but declined to elaborate or name those individuals.
“Evidence that there was no cause for his termination is provided by the fact that a high-level executive at CP+B actively recruited Plaintiff to work with CP+B on various projects after he was wrongfully terminated ‘for cause,'” the new document reads. It then claims that this project work ended only after Watson sued both CPB and MDC Partners last July, alleging wrongful termination and discrimination based on age and gender.
“CPB still stands by its decision to terminate Mr. Watson’s employment for cause following an appropriate investigation,” said an agency spokesperson. “MDC Partners and CPB will continue to vigorously defend themselves and their employees against the litigation commenced by Mr. Watson in June 2018. We remain highly confident that we will ultimately prevail in this matter.”
Ayotte has not yet responded to email and voicemail requests for comment on the case.
The Diet Madison Avenue Instagram account, which has been inactive for approximately five months, did not respond to a direct message.
Multiple cases move forward
So far, the defendants have not filed a response to the New York suit. It is unclear whether the Jane Does or Company Doe have retained legal counsel.
A. Louis Dorny, a partner at San Francisco-based firm Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani who is representing the Jane Does in the California case on a pro bono basis as part of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, said his firm is aware of the new filing but had no information to share.
In a September interview with Adweek, Dorny said he does not believe the plaintiff has enough “specific facts” to validate the defamation charges, which are “very hard” to prosecute successfully.
Last year, Ayotte filed a motion in California to subpoena Google and Instagram in the interest of confirming the identities of the individuals behind the DMA social media and email accounts. The judge has not yet ruled on Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani’s subsequent motion to quash that request.
“The issue has already been resolved and no valid grounds exist to quash the subpoenas,” Ayotte told Adweek late last year.
The full filing is below.