An actress who sued IMDb.com for publishing her real age has appealed a verdict against her, and the entertainment industry’s most powerful unions back her claims.
Junie Hoang, whose legal name is Huong Hoang, sued IMDb.com and parent Amazon.com Inc. after the site published her age—41—by using information obtained through a credit card number she provided while signing up for the entertainment database’s professional services. The site refused to remove the information. Her acting jobs drastically dwindled as a result, she claims.
Amazon.com was released from the case on summary judgment. But on April 11, a jury in Seattle, where Amazon is based, found for IMDb.com.
On appeal, Hoang claims she never got a fair trial. Her first attorney, John Dozier of Dozier Internet Law PC, an expert on Internet law, virtually abandoned her case due to a series of serious health problems that led to his death last year, she claims.
After Dozier died, local counsel stepped in, but Hoang now complains that U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman prevented her from reopening discovery. Among other things, she sought to introduce evidence of age discrimination in Hollywood, including a petition signed by 5,000 actors and writers asking IMDb.com to remove their birth dates.
“In sum, the district court’s order preventing Hoang’s new counsel from conducting the discovery that prior counsel abandoned unfairly sent Hoang to trial with one hand tied behind her back and improperly held her accountable for her prior counsel’s gross negligence,” Hoang’s attorney, Barry Levy, a partner at Horvitz & Levy in Los Angeles, wrote in an Oct. 30 brief.
Levy’s office referred calls to Hoang’s publicist, Allan Mayer, who declined to comment. IMDb.com attorney Freya Brown, counsel at Perkins Coie in Madison, Wis., did not return a call for comment, and Amazon.com spokesman Ty Rogers declined to comment.
Additionally, Hoang claims that Pechman incorrectly instructed the jury that she had to prove she was not in breach of her subscriber agreement. At trial, IMDb.com claimed she breached the agreement by submitting a false birth date and later providing a fake ID and doctored passport.
Supporting Hoang’s appeal is the Screen Actors Guild, now merged with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Writers Guild of America West Inc. In a Nov. 6 brief, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s general counsel, claims that members have complained for almost a decade about IMDb.com posting private information including birth dates without their consent. The site, frequently used by casting professionals, also refuses to remove the information unless it is inaccurate.
Crabtree-Ireland had submitted a declaration in Hoang’s case, but it was never used.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com.