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Olivia de Havilland scores court victory; trial will begin Nov. 27

Olivia de Havilland in June 2016. (Thibault Camus / Associated Press)
Olivia de Havilland in June 2016. (Thibault Camus / Associated Press)

The drama that began on screen and spilled over into reality continues to unfold as famed actress Olivia de Havilland scored a significant court victory Friday. Her lawsuit against FX Networks and Ryan Murphy Productions is headed to trial in November.

FX and Murphy had filed a motion to dismiss the 101-year-old legend's lawsuit over her depiction in the Emmy-nominated series "Feud: Bette and Joan," citing the U.S. and California constitutions' rights to free speech in connection with a public issue.

They claimed that de Havilland's consent was not needed to include her in the show, nor did her inclusion violate her right of publicity, citing the state's statutes protecting petition and free-speech rights.

At Friday's hearing, L.A. Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig ruled that de Havilland's complaint will stand, unless the defendants successfully appeal the decision. 

In order to strike a complaint using California's anti-SLAPP statute, a case must meet two criteria. First, the defense must prove that the originating suit is based on protected rights. If established, the plaintiff must then present admissible evidence  that suggests that they – in this case, de Havilland – would prevail if the case proceeded to trial.

FX was successful in proving that de Havilland's case was based on protected rights Friday, but de Havilland was successful in presenting sufficient evidence that she would be victorious at trial.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in the FX miniseries "Feud: Bette and Joan." (Kurt Iswarienko / FX)
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in the FX miniseries "Feud: Bette and Joan." (Kurt Iswarienko / FX)

Two of de Havilland's lawyers, Don Howarth and Suzelle M. Smith, spoke to The Times after Friday's hearing.

Howarth praised Kendig's decision and said they are looking toward the future. "We've won," he said. "As far as we're concerned, the next thing is the trial."

The November trial is not a sure thing, however, as FX still has an opportunity to appeal Friday's decision. 

"If they file for appeal, that automatically stays activity in the case," explained Smith. "We would file a motion asking the appellate court to expedite the appeal and they can do that pretty fast."

Her lawyers had not yet spoken with de Havilland about Friday's decision but reported that the actress texted them that morning saying, "all her prayers and love were with [them]."

De Havilland filed suit in June over the "unauthorized use of her identity" in the FX series created by Murphy. The show centered on the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and featured Catherine Zeta-Jones as de Havilland.

Earlier this month, de Havilland was granted an expedited trial due to her advanced age, and a judge set the date for Nov. 27.

A representative for FX told The Times that the network had no additional comment Friday morning.

UPDATES:

12:50 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Olivia de Havilland's lawyers.

This article was originally published at 12 p.m.

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