A California appeals court judge made a ruling on Tuesday that said actor John Travolta can no longer prevent former employee and alleged former gay lover Douglas Gotterba from telling his side of the story in court.
Gotterba worked for Travolta’s aircraft company Alto in the 1980s, until he reached a written termination agreement with the business in 1987. The pilot claims that his six-year working relationship with Travolta developed into something much more personal, and nearly 25 years later, he decided to “tell the story of his life and those involved in it.”
After Gotterba gave an interview to The National Enquirer and announced plans to release a book, Travolta’s attorney sent the pilot cease-and-desist letters claiming Gotterba was breaching a confidentiality provision in his original termination agreement. But Gotterba and his lawyer called the documents inauthentic, saying the paperwork in question was an early draft of the agreement. Gotterba sued Travolta and Alto, seeking a judge’s opinion about which agreement was valid and whether or not confidentiality was really enforceable.
However, a special California law created to protect First Amendment rights continued the legal back and forth—Alto responded with an anti-SLAPP motion asserting Travolta’s right to petition and further questioned whether or not Gotteba’s lawsuit was based upon the cease-and-desist letters alone, or the larger confidentiality disagreement. On Tuesday, California appeals court Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert ruled in Gotteba’s favor, stating that the lawsuit was based on “the validity of the asserted termination agreements.” According to court documents, Gilbert added, “Although the prelitigation letters may have triggered Gotterba’s complaint and may be evidence in support of the complaint, they are not the basis of the complaint.”
Gilbert concluded that if Travolta had won, the decision “would lead to the absurd result that a person receiving a demand letter threatening legal action for breach of contract would be precluded from seeking declaratory relief to determine the validity of the contract. Declaratory relief would be limited to situations where the parties have not communicated their disagreement.”