Father of teenager who died by suicide after watching '13 Reasons Why' plans to appeal decision in Netflix lawsuit
- Bella Herndon, 15, died by
suicidein 2017 after she watched Netflix's " 13 Reasons Why."
- Her father's lawsuit against Netflix, blaming the streaming giant for the death, was dismissed by a federal judge this week.
This week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Netflix brought by a grieving father who said the TV show "13 Reasons Why" was to blame for his 15-year-old daughter's death by suicide in April 2017.
But John Herndon of Livermore, California, plans to appeal the decision, he said during an interview with Insider.
"We disagree with the district court's decision, and we do intend to appeal," he said. "We appreciate the district court's consideration of the issue."
Herndon has accused Netflix of using sophisticated algorithms to "target highly vulnerable children," including his daughter Bella, and alleges that kids were "directly manipulated" into watching dangerous content, court documents show.
Netflix disputes this, saying in court filings that restrictions on programming would result in self-censorship.
'This is a tragic case'
Bella Herndon was a 15-year-old girl who loved writing short stories, reading voraciously about Greek mythology, and spending time with her family and tight-knit group of friends.
"She was very intelligent, inquisitive, and very quick," her father told Insider. "She and I were like best buddies."
When Bella died by suicide in April 2017, he said it came "completely out of the blue" and was a "total surprise" to their family. Bella had been seeing a therapist who had advised him that everything was looking "very well," Herndon added.
It was only on the day of her funeral, he said, that he became aware that she had been watching Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" — a controversial teen drama that revolved around the suicide of the main character Hannah Baker.
Bella's school friends approached the late teenager's father in the church and explained that she watched the show in her final days. "I had no idea," Herndon said. "The kids were extremely open and honest about how they felt about it and how they believed that it affected Bella."
Herndon concluded that Bella had died "as a result of the tortious acts and omissions of Netflix that caused, or at least substantially contributed to, her suicide," according to a class-action lawsuit filed in August.
But this week, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against Netflix, following a response filed by the streaming giant in December, saying she based her ruling on free-speech protections.
"This is a tragic case," US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said on Tuesday, per The Hollywood Reporter. "But ultimately, I don't think that it survives."
Insider reached out to Netflix for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
The show was accused of glorifying suicide
The teen drama, which ran for four seasons between 2017 and 2020, was accused by critics and mental-health professionals of glorifying suicide.
"13 Reasons Why," based on a book of the same name, originally (and controversially) included a graphic three-minute suicide scene in the last episode of season one.
"The show, before Netflix modified the content, gave a very detailed walkthrough of how this girl went about committing suicide," Herndon said. "The way that she did it was particularly abhorrent to me as a father and as a reasonable person."
In July 2019, Netflix edited the scene out.
"But it was too late — the damage had already been done," Herndon told Insider. "All of the medical research that we've looked at so far has just pointed to the fact that this is not content that you would show to a young audience."
A 2019 study found that teen suicides increased in the months after the show first aired.
Herndon maintains that what he alleges Netflix did is immoral. "As parents, we do everything, every single day, to teach our kids the difference between right and wrong," he said.
"I think this show, and there are others like it, are the complete antithesis to the moral rules and laws that we were all raised to understand."
Herndon said he would continue to speak up about what happened to his daughter in the hope of raising awareness about the dangers of harmful content promoted to children.
"All of this is to bring to the attention of the world that this kind of activity is something as parents and as a society that we need to address."
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