Weber Shandwick has filed a motion to dismiss the harassment lawsuit brought by online personality George Ouzounian, known as Maddox, against several defendants including the agency and one of its employees.
Weber and the firm’s general counsel, Joshua Kaufman, who was also named as a defendant, filed a joint motion requesting dismissal on Wednesday. The agency argued that the personal feud between Ouzounian, Weber employee Asterios Kokkinos, and fellow online personality Dax Herrera has nothing to do with the firm.
"[Weber Shandwick] and Kaufman have no involvement in that fight and no stake in its outcome, despite the plaintiffs' flawed attempt to drag them into this lawsuit, which is itself born from a transparent attempt to embarrass [Weber] into terminating the employment of defendant Asterios Kokkinos," the motion filed by Weber read.
Several other defendants in the case, including Kokkinos, also requested dismissal of the lawsuit, which is seeking $20 million in damages, this month.
Ouzounian’s lawsuit claimed Weber knew that Kokkinos was running an online harassment campaign against Ouzounian and his girlfriend, but took no action. It accused Weber of negligence in hiring, retention, and supervision, along with negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The complaint, filed in November, claimed that Weber and Kaufman were alerted to Kokkinos’ activity by an activist calling herself "Heather," who emailed the firm seeking comment for a story about the alleged online harassment campaign, but did not investigate or dismiss the employee.
The firm was not able to verify the identity of Heather, who claimed to be a journalist, and did not provide a statement to her. Weber argued in the filing that it is not responsible for Kokkinos "personal internet activity, which was not performed in the scope of his employment and did not involve WS in any way."
Ouzounian’s suit also claimed that Kokkinos worked on the alleged harassment campaign during work hours, specifically that he recorded a comedy album that became part of the online harassment of Ouzounian and his girlfriend using Weber’s equipment.
Weber did not concede that Kokkinos used its equipment but argued that even if he had, the album was released before Weber was alerted to Kokkinos’ actions. The firm also claimed there is no evidence that Kokkinos used Weber’s office to create content related to the alleged campaign after it was alerted to it.
The motion to dismiss filed by Weber and Kaufman is scheduled to come before the New York State Supreme Court on March 15.
Kokkinos is still an employee of the firm, a Weber spokesperson said on Thursday. The agency and its attorneys had no additional comment beyond the filing.