Former HFPA Member Drops Wrongful Discharge Suit

Lawsuit form an a desk

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former member of the board of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association dropped his lawsuit Tuesday alleging his membership was wrongfully terminated.

A lawyer for plaintiff Magnus Sundholm filed court papers with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Wendy Chang asking that the one remaining claim against the organization, for wrongful discharge, be dismissed "without prejudice," which keeps the door open for the case to be revived later.

In October, the judge sharply pared Sundholm's case after the HFPA filed papers seeking to have it dismissed in its entirety. The HFPA attorneys maintained in their court papers that the lawsuit was legally deficient and part of an effort to punish the organization for denying membership to Sundholm's longtime partner, Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa.

Chang said at the time that Sundholm could only move forward on the wrongful discharge cause of action against HFPA, but not against the 14 board members also named as co-defendants.

The judge dismissed Sundholm's causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and for violation of the California Right of Fair Procedure. The judge found Sundholm had not provided new facts to support those claims after having been previously given the chance to do so during a previous hearing on the original version of the suit.

Sundholm, a journalist for the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, alleged in his suit filed in December 2021 that HFPA's ending of his membership two months earlier deprived him of benefits he received as a member.

The HFPA board accused Sundholm, a member since 2008, of "fraudulent, illegal conduct that was contrary to the interests of the HFPA," according to the complaint. But Sundholm maintains he erroneously misidentified himself on an IRS form submitted in connection to his filing of a whistleblower complaint against the HFPA and that the organization used the mistake as an excuse to fire him for having brought the complaint.

Sundholm also tied his removal to a backlash for the actions of Flaa, who brought an antitrust suit against the organization in 2021 in which she alleged that within the HFPA there is a "culture of corruption" in which qualified candidates are barred from joining.

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