LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A lawsuit filed by a former Super Smash Bros. player and streamer who alleges a woman hurt his career with false social media statements can move forward, according to a ruling by a judge who nonetheless trimmed some of the plaintiff's claims.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara A. Meiers heard arguments on Jacqueline Choe's anti-SLAPP motion on Feb. 18, took the case filed by Gonzalo Barrios under submission and issued her final ruling on Wednesday. She found that some of the allegedly defamatory statements made in 2020 were barred by the statute of limitations given that Barrios sued on Nov. 19 and the deadline to sue was Oct. 1.
Meiers also struck Barrrios' claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, she allowed another allegedly defamatory remark, posted last April 28, to remain. She also found that although Barrios is widely known in the gaming community, he is not an ``all-purpose'' public figure who had to show malice on Choe's part.
The state's anti-SLAPP -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation -- law is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
Barrios is known professionally as ZeRo. Choe's lawyers argued in their court papers that ZeRo filed the case ``to silence and punish Choe for speaking up about Barrios'' sexual misconduct with minors. Choe's statements fall squarely within the ambit of constitutionally protected speech.''
The Chilean-born ZeRo, 26, was considered the best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player in the world throughout his career, with a record-breaking 56 consecutive tournament wins in the game from November 2014 to October 2015.
According to his suit, Choe, now 23, in July 2020 drafted a document that was published and circulated throughout numerous social media outlets, including Dot Esports, Kotaku, Dexerto and ESPN.
The document included multiple falsehoods and ``outright defamatory claims'' against ZeRo and others that caused the termination of his Twitch account and his partnership with the organizations Tempo Storm and Facebook Gaming, the suit alleges.
In one allegedly defamatory tweet, Choe falsely said that ZeRo started dating his girlfriend when she was 15 and ZeRo was 20, the suit states. Accusing persons in the gaming industry of having inappropriate contact with minors is harmful to them in their profession, the suit states.
But in a sworn declaration, denied any wrongdoing.
`` I didn't make up my statements about ZeRo and (his girlfriend),'' Choe says. ``I was told that they had an inappropriate age gap and that she was being physically abused in their relationship...''