Attorney for Photographer Who Sued Hilary Duff Says His Client Has Died

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A photographer who sued Hilary Duff, alleging libel and slander for derogatory statements he said the actress made about him after he photographed her son and other children at a park in 2020, has died, his attorney told a judge.

In his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, the late plaintiff Darryl Wilkins maintained he encountered the "Cheaper by the Dozen" star in a public park on Feb. 22, 2020. He contended Duff asked him not to photograph young children, including her then-7-year-old son, as they played soccer and that Duff called him, among other pejorative terms, a "child predator."

On Tuesday, Wilkins' attorney, Fred Hanassab, told Judge Upinder S. Kalra that the plaintiff was deceased. In a sworn declaration submitted prior to the hearing, Hanassab said that he had lost contact with his client and then found a media report stating that Wiilkins, 67, died "in a vehicle" on May 19 and that the official cause of death was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Duff, who turns 36 on Thursday, recorded the encounter with Wilkins on her cell phone and posted the video to her Instagram page, where it became publicly disseminated and reported in the celebrity news media, with a portion being played during the "Hot Topics" segment of an episode of "The Wendy Williams Show" discussing celebrity news.

"Such purported comments by Duff, including plaintiff allegedly being a child predator, were made in a place open to the public or a public forum ... open to the use of the general public for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens and discussing public questions) in connection with an issue of public interest," according to an anti-SLAPP motion filed by the actress' attorneys that also was scheduled for hearing Oct. 12.

Kalra did not dismiss the complaint and left the upcoming hearing on calendar to address other issues.

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.

"By allegedly calling plaintiff a child predator both in the public park ... and thereafter on social media and in television appearances, Duff participated in, and furthered, the discourse about child predators approaching minor children in public, and the issues surrounding the increased aggressiveness of paparazzi and they relate to celebrities, including their children," the motion states.

Moreover, Duff's alleged remarks about Wilkins were "nothing more than her opinion of what plaintiff was doing when he was taking photographs of Duff's children" and expressions of opinion are not defamatory, according to the motion.

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