Judd v. Weinstein, 967 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 2020)

Actor Ashley Judd brought this sexual harassment claim against motion picture producer Harvey Weinstein under Cal. Civil Code § 51.9, which prohibits such harassment in the context of a “business, service, or professional relationship” between the plaintiff and a physician, psychotherapist, dentist, attorney, real estate agent, accountant, banker, trust officer, executor, trustee, landlord or property manager, teacher, among others, including “a relationship that is substantially similar to any of the above.” Judd alleged that the relationship she had with Weinstein was “substantially similar” to the enumerated examples in the statute. The district court dismissed Judd’s sexual harassment claim, but the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal, holding that the relationship between Judd and Weinstein involved “an inherent power imbalance” by which Weinstein was “uniquely situated to exercise coercion or leverage” over Judd. The Court held that this “considerable imbalance of power [was] substantially similar to the imbalances that characterize the enumerated relationships in Section 51.9.” (The Court noted but disregarded the fact that Section 51.9 was amended in 2019 to add “director or producer” to the list of persons covered by the statute.)