BET is no doubt “liking” the legal ruling it received on Wednesday.
The network has emerged triumphant in a lawsuit brought against it by a woman who ran a Facebook fan page for the series “The Game,” after a judge in U.S. district court in Florida granted BET's motion for summary judgment.
Stacey Mattocks brought her lawsuit against BET in July 2013, claiming the company breached their agreement over “The Game” fan page. Mattocks launched the page in 2008, before BET resuscitated the show following its CW cancellation.
According to the order granting BET's motion, the network hired Mattocks part-time in 2011, paying her $30 an hour to maintain her fan page.
A 2011 agreement between Mattocks and BET prohibited BET from changing Mattocks’ administrative rights to the page. In exchange, she granted the network administrative access to the page and agreed that the network could “update the content on the Page from time-to-time as determined by BET in its sole discretion.”
Things went south, oddly enough, after BET discussed bringing Mattocks on full-time. In June 2012, Mattocks told BET that she would restrict the network's administrative access to the page until “such time as we can reach an amicable and mutually beneficial resolution” regarding Mattocks’ employment.
In response, BET got Facebook to migrate fans to another “The Game” page and to shut down Mattocks’ page. The network also got Twitter to disable the account she was using to promote the series.
Mattocks sued on a number of counts, including tortious interference and breach of contract. However, on Wednesday, Judge James I. Cohn sided with BET, granting its motion for summary judgment.
Cohn found that BET could not be found guilty of tortious interference because, under Florida law, it had justification in interfering as an interested party.
“A defendant is not a ‘stranger to a business relationship if the defendant has any beneficial or economic interest in, or control over, that relationship,” Cohn wrote. “Thus, a party cannot be liable for tortious interference ‘when it has a supervisory interest in how the relationship is conducted or a potential financial interest in how a contract is performed.”
Similarly, Cohn ruled that BET was justified in its actions, because Mattocks created the initial breach of the agreement by restricting its administrative access to the Facebook page.
“That action by Mattocks materially breached the Letter Agreement, thereby excusing BET's performance of its obligations under the contract,” Cohn wrote. “Accordingly, Mattocks cannot maintain a breach-of-contract claim based on BET's later removal of the FB page.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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