PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A Bay County Commissioner and the owner of a local construction business has filed an appeal after losing his defamation lawsuit against a group of documentary filmmakers and Netflix.
Commissioner Tommy Hamm sued Netflix and the documentary filmmakers behind ‘Immigration Nation’ for defamation. The documentary accuses Hamm and his construction company of wage theft involving undocumented workers in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Hamm said he asked the filmmakers for the names of the workers so that he could resolve the issue and they refused. He also said that a subcontractor was responsible for the non-payment and not a company he owned.
Hamm filed the lawsuit in March of 2021 after the documentary aired.
Judge James Goodman threw out the case in September. He ruled that the lawsuit did not reach the level of “actual malice” required in this type of case.
“While there is sufficient record evidence from which a reasonable juror could determine that Defendants portrayed Plaintiffs unfairly and even acted with ill will toward them, ‘ill will is different than actual malice under the defamation test,” Goodman wrote. “Indeed, this Court believes that Defendants consciously chose to present Plaintiffs in a negative light to support the documentary’s (and the political cause’s) overarching purpose.”
He added that the evidence shows the filmmakers failed to include footage and information that would have shown Hamm, “more fairly.”
“Again, unfortunately for Plaintiffs, “an intention to portray a public figure in a negative light, even when motivated by ill will or evil intent, is not sufficient to show actual malice unless the publisher intended to inflict harm through knowing or reckless falsehood.”
Hamm has filed an appeal. A hearing on that appeal is set for January.