A defamation lawsuit filed by the mother of "Modern Family" actress Ariel Winter against an actor who called her an "abusive monster" in an online post should be dismissed, a lawyer for the defendant says in newly filed court papers.
Chrisoula Workman sued Matthew Borlenghi in Los Angeles Superior Court on Dec. 10 for comments made in connection with a Nov. 6 Los Angeles Times online story regarding the mother's allegations that Winter's 18-year-old former boyfriend had unlawful sex with the actress when she was 14.
"This is a total falsehood," Borlenghi stated in his post shown underneath the online article, according to the suit. "The mother is grasping and clawing to find a way not to lose her money-maker and hide the fact that she is an abusive monster."
Borlenghi is a longtime friend of another of Workman's daughters, Shanelle Gray, who was granted a temporary guardianship over her younger sister last year amid allegations their mother abused Winter, who is now 15.
Michael Waddington, an attorney for the 45-year-old Borlenghi, says in court papers filed Thursday that Workman's suit should be tossed because the comments are matters of public interest protected by the First Amendment.
"Plaintiff's daughter, Ariel, is a celebrity," Waddington's court papers state. "Evidence of the public's interest in (Workman's) relationship with her celebrity daughter can be found in the fact that there exists an enormous amount of articles regarding plaintiff being accused by her youngest daughter of being an abusive mother."
Waddington also maintains in his court papers that Workman is a "limited public figure" who injected herself into a public controversy and who therefore must show Borlenghi acted with malice. He also scoffs at Workman's claim her reputation was hurt by his client's comments.
"How can (Workman) claim she had a good reputation in the community prior to (Borlenghi's) statement when her celebrity daughter has stated under oath that (her mother) abused her physically and emotionally?," Waddington asks in his court papers.
Waddington's court papers further state that Borlenghi was expressing an opinion when he referred to Workman as an "abusive monster." The term would not be considered by anyone to have caused Workman any damages "in light of what her own daughters are saying about her," according to Waddington's court papers.
Waddington also states in his court papers that Workman lost custody of Gray, now 35, when her daughter was a teen and that the young woman wound up in foster care, never to return to the custody of her mother.
A hearing on Borlenghi's dismissal motion is scheduled Oct. 9 before Judge Mary H. Strobel.Winter is now living in Studio City and is frequently seen at the Farmers Market.
—City News Service