New suit filed in New York against people alleged to be behind Diet Madison Avenue

Former CPB exec Ralph Watson has already sued Los Angeles members of DMA and his ex-employer

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United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former CPB Chief Creative Officer Ralph Watson has filed a new suit against individuals he claims are behind Diet Madison Avenue that live in New York. This marks the third suit filed by Watson, who has also sued people he has claimed are Los Angeles members of DMA as well as his former employer.

The Diet Madison Avenue Instagram account drew broad attention in the advertising industry last year for naming men it claimed engaged in sexual harassment. After their names were posted on the anonymous account, several big-name creatives were separated from their agencies, including Watson.

Watson's latest suit, filed January 17 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, is against four individuals believed to live in New York, as well as one allegedly living in Illinois, along with an "unknown business entity" and "Does 1 through 50," whose identities are unknown. The suit alleges Watson was "falsely accused of being a 'serial predator' and 'rapist'" and continues to "suffer severe emotional distress from having his highly successful career destroyed by a malicious and reckless campaign of rumor and innuendo."

The suit says Watson "is informed and believes" DMA is a collective of 17 anonymous individual defendants, with at least an additional 42 individuals who have provided assistance.

In May of 2018, Watson filed a suit in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles against Diet Madison Avenue, in which he claimed that defamatory statements posted on the account led to his wrongful termination from the agency. That suit's defendants included "Jane Doe 1" and "Jane Doe 2," who it alleged were Los Angeles County residents, as well as "Does 3 through 100." Watson also sued his former agency in June 2018.

Watson's lawyer, Michael Ayotte of the Law Offices of Michael W. Ayotte in Hermosa Beach, California, declined to comment on the New York suit. The court docket did not yet list Diet Madison Avenue's legal representation.

The new suit alleges that Watson is aware of the real identity of the four New York individuals but "is suing [them] under an anonymous name to protect the privacy of [these] individual[s] until a suitable protective order is reached by the parties and approved by the Court." It also states that the individual in Illinois has "sufficient minimum contacts to the State of New York as a result of his or her involvement in the events giving rise to this complaint."

In a filing in the Los Angeles case, Watson's attorney said the plaintiff filed the suit before the expiration of the statute of limitations since Watson "anticipates some DMA members will argue they are not subject to personal jurisdiction in California."

The filing references a Colorado federal action Watson has also filed against his former agency, which is ongoing and awaiting a decision by the court on whether the case will go to arbitration or proceed to Colorado federal court.

Diet Madison Avenue did not respond to an Instagram direct message requesting comment.

In August 2018, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner signed an order allowing Watson's legal team to serve business record subpoenas to Instagram, its parent Facebook and Gmail (part of Alphabet-owned Google) to provide identifying information about the anonymous individuals behind Diet Madison Avenue. The court's next hearing for the case occurs on Friday, February 1.

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