Bartender Drops Slander Claim Against Actor Stemming From Bar Dustup

GLENDALE (CNS) - A Studio City bartender has dropped a slander claim alleging Shia LaBeouf called him a racist in 2017, but the actor is still facing other allegations brought by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff David Bernstein filed court papers seeking dismissal of the slander claim only on Friday, the same day that lawyers for LaBeouf convinced Glendale Superior Court Judge Curtis Kin that there were insufficient facts to support the cause of action.

The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff on his other allegations of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, saying both will remain in the case.

Bernstein sued the “Disturbia'' actor in May 2017 after a confrontation at Jerry's Famous Deli, where Bernstein alleges the actor told other customers, “Wake up, this (epithet) is a racist.''

The 34-year-old LaBeouf's mother is Jewish and his father is of French Cajun descent.

According to the suit, LaBeouf, accompanied by then-wife Mia Goth, became irate after Bernstein refused to serve the couple a drink, allegedly because LaBeouf was already drunk.

In his ruling, Kin said “rhetorical hyperbole, vigorous epithets, lusty and imaginative expressions of contempt and language used in a loose, figurative sense will not support a (slander) action.''

The judge gave Bernstein a chance to amend the suit to bolster the slander claim, but the plaintiff instead dropped it.

In allowing the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim to remain, Kin said that the actor “allegedly attempted to incite the predominantly African-American crowd in the bar.''

The judge said the assault claim was supported by the plaintiff's allegation that LaBeouf pounded his fist upon the bar counter,  entered the bartender well and took three to four steps toward Bernstein.

In December, a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal denied a motion by LaBeouf's lawyers to strike Bernstein's complaint on free-speech grounds. The actor's appeal came after Glendale County Superior Court judge Laura A. Matz denied a motion to dismiss the case, finding that Bernstein's claims stemmed from a private dispute and rejecting the defense argument that LaBeouf's alleged statements contributed to public discussions on racism.

The appellate court panel found that LaBeouf's statements did not address a current topic.

Kin scheduled trial of the case for March 1, 2021.

Photo: Getty Images

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