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Judge dismisses former “Dance Moms” cast member Kelly Hyland’s defamation claims

Kelly Hyland.
Kelly Hyland.

A judge dismissed former “Dance Moms” cast member Kelly Hyland’s defamation claims against the producers and also the matriarch of the Lifetime series, but said she can move forward with other allegations in her lawsuit against the company.

Nearly three months after she heard arguments in Hyland’s case against Collins Avenue Entertainment LLC and Abigail Lee Miller and took the case under submission, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan granted defense motions to toss the defamation claims on free-speech grounds.

However, Hyland can pursue her breach of contract, declaratory relief and negligence causes of action against Collins, Kwan found.

The judge also said Hyland’s daughters, Paige and Brooke, can move forward with their claims against the production company for breach of contract, but not for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Hyland, 43, claimed that Miller defamed her by falsely stating the plaintiff pulled out clumps of the dance coach’s hair in a brawl that aired as part of an episode last year and that Collins shared responsibility for the damage to Hyland’s reputation.

Hyland also alleged that the “Dance Moms” production crew’s negligence caused $21,000 in damage to the floor of her home. 

Defense attorneys filed the motion to dismiss the case under California’s anti-SLAPP law protecting free speech. But attorneys Michael Shapiro and Marcus Jackson, representing Hyland and her daughters, said their clients were not properly compensated and that the contract between them and Collins was unfairly slanted in favor of the production company because it barred them from suing on the very claims they are alleging.

Attorney Kelli Sager, on behalf of Collins, said during arguments in August that Hyland was paid for every episode on which she appeared. Sager said Hyland was “very sophisticated and savvy” and that the Hylands are “not a poor, rural Appalachian family.”

She also told Kwan that Hyland’s husband approved the deal and that he is a successful businessman.

Hyland, on behalf of herself and her daughters, sued Collins and Miller on Feb. 13, alleging that Collins, in an effort to boost ratings, encouraged disputes between Miller on the one hand and the young female dancers and their mothers on the other.

During a confrontation last Nov. 22 before a dance competition in the Bronx, N.Y., Miller “repeatedly lunged toward Kelly, gnashing her teeth and loudly attempting to bite Kelly,” the suit alleges. 

According to the filing, Hyland “in self-defense, slapped Miller and pulled Miller’s head away from her to avoid being bitten.” Hyland was later arrested and charged with assault for allegedly pulling Miller’s hair. 

Hyland’s lawsuit alleges Collins “desired for her to have a warrant issued for her arrest as that would make for intensely dramatic television.”

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