(CN) – Seven people whose lives were documented in the Netflix series “Afflicted” filed a $1 million defamation and fraud lawsuit Wednesday against the network and producers of the show over the depiction of chronic illnesses made to be seen as psychological.
The show, which debuted last year, has faced criticism for its portrayal of chronic illnesses as being psychosomatic or psychological in nature. Several physicians, scientists and celebrities have since asked Netflix to pull the plug on the series.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, says four of the plaintiffs explicitly asked producers with Doc Shop Productions, including its CEO Danield Partland, if the show would portray their illnesses as psychosomatic.
They were told the show “would be a serious Netflix documentary, with science and interviews with experts in the field,” according to the 51-page complaint.
The “Afflicted” cast said producers lied to them about the nature of the series.
“The series is not a documentary in any sense of the word, but a reality series that advanced a producer-driven narrative, of which Defendant Partland was the ‘mastermind,’ suggesting that its’ subjects medically-documented physical illnesses are purely psychological and/or psychosomatic,” the lawsuit states.
Shortly after the show’s debut in August 2018, the series cast wrote individual blogs detailing their experiences with show producers. Jamison Hill, one of the listed plaintiffs who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, said he was disturbed by the show’s portrayal of his illness and scenes left out of him receiving medical treatment.
“More alarming however, was how the editors of the film cut the audio and video to make comments from ‘experts’ pertain to the illnesses on the show, which they may not have even been referring to,” he wrote.
Pilar Olave said the show portrayed her as a woman taking advantage of her husband, “perhaps even entirely faking” her illness. Olave said she had gotten sick as a “result of a two-year gas leak exposure” in her home.
She said producers edited her responses to questions about her home life and husband.
“I repeated the phrase, as instructed: Do I feel like I am taking advantage of him. I then paused and answered the question, telling him that I would never take advantage of Jeff, that he knows that,” she wrote.
“You can clearly hear how they removed the ‘do’ and started my shot with me saying only, ‘I feel like I am taking advantage of him’ as a fact. That is not even how I talk and you can clearly hear the questioning tone of my voice. I would also never say such a thing,” Olave added.
The plaintiffs asked the court to order Netflix to remove the show from their offerings and for damages in excess of $1 million. They are represented by Russell Selmont of Beverly Hills-based Ervin Cohen & Jessup.