Netflix was denied a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit this week issued by female chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili in regards to the platform’s hit series The Queen’s Gambit.
Gaprindashvili, who is referenced in the series, has accused the streaming giant of misrepresenting "one of the most significant career achievements”.
According to the champion’s lawyers, the error was broadcast "before millions of viewers worldwide" and "tarnished (her) personal and professional reputation”.
While the series is fictional, following chess prodigy Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, it features references to real-life chess competitors, including Gaprindashvili.
The defamation suit comes after a scene in the series final episode where a commentator compares Harmon’s achievements to Gaprindashvili’s before dismissing the latter by claiming she had “never faced men” in competition.
According to legal documents, Netflix said that "no reasonable viewer would have understood the line to convey a statement of fact" due the series being "an entirely fictional work.”
However, in a court ruling issued on Thursday (Jan 27) a California Central District Court judge said that there was no evidence of any prior cases "precluding defamation claims for the portrayal of real persons in otherwise fictional works.
"On the contrary, the fact that the series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present," legal documents said.
Gaprindashvili was the first woman in history to be awarded the title and rank of International Chess Grandmaster, a title that had only previously been held by male competitors.
"During Plaintiff’s career, she encountered severe prejudice because she was a woman—and often the only woman—competing amongst men," the documents said.
"When the series aired, multiple news outlets and various individual internet users commented on the inaccuracy of the line.
"Plaintiff states that the line 'misrepresented one of (her) most significant career achievements…before millions of viewers worldwide’ and ‘tarnished (her) personal and professional reputation."
They continued: "Plaintiff’s life-long career is in the world of competitive chess, in which she remains an active leader, role-model, and competitor.
"Plaintiff contends that the line cuts to the heart of her hard-won standing in her profession.
"The professional reputation and brand of Gaprindashvili was inextricably bound up with her courageous efforts to face and defeat estimable male opponents when chess was overwhelmingly a man’s world."