A lawsuit in Dallas alleges that this image was used without permission in the Netflix documentary The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, prompting concern from friends and family who thought he was connected or standing with the killer in the documentary in connection.
Photo above Taylor Hazlewood’s lawsuit against Netflix
Netflix denies “every single allegation” of a Kentucky man who claims the streaming service made him look “dangerous” by featuring his picture in a true-crime documentary.
Taylor Hazlewood, a 27-year-old respiratory therapist living in Kentucky, filed the lawsuit against Netflix in a Texas courtalleged defamation after they used a personal image of him holding a hatchet in a 2023 documentary called The Hatchet Schwinging Hitchhiker, according to his lawsuit.
The documentary shows an Instagram picture of Hazlewood with the tone “Cold Dead Killer,” with captions such as “You can’t trust anyone,” the lawsuit says. Hazlewood’s picture is shown alongside images of Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, a hitchhiker who became notorious after being convicted of the murder of Joseph Galfy – who the film is about.
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However, in a response to the lawsuit filed earlier this month, Netflix denies all of Hazlewood’s claims and seeks to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of improper jurisdiction.
The lawsuit was filed in a Dallas County District Court, which Hazlewood felt was appropriate given the scale of the controversy in Texas, according to court documents.
After Netflix moved to dismiss the lawsuit, it put it in federal court, court filings show.
“The court has jurisdiction in this case because the scope of the controversy is within the jurisdiction of the court and Netflix’s wrongdoing has occurred in all 50 states,” Hazlewood’s lawsuit reads.
After the documentary was released, Hazlewood claimed he received dozens of text messages from friends, former employers and family members alerting him to the use of his image. According to court documents, he received these texts from residents in Kentucky, California, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana and Hawaii.
Netflix claims there is no connection to Texas other than the documentary being viewable in all 50 states. Netflix is a Delaware company based in California.
“Texas is therefore an inappropriate forum and the case should be dismissed,” the streaming service’s attorneys wrote in their response.
Hazlewood is seeking $1 million in damages for defamation and misappropriation of likeness or right of publicity.
“The damage done by Netflix to Hazlewood was extraordinary,” Hazlewood’s lawsuit reads. “The film was seen by tens of thousands of people, and it was subject to personal pain, heartache and reputational damage due to Netflix’s misrepresentation as dangerous, a murderer and/or an untrustworthy person.”
The story behind Hazlewood’s picture
Hazlewood has no connection to McGillvary or his crimes, but was portrayed twice on the show alongside the man convicted of murder, the lawsuit states.
According to court documents, Hazlewood took the picture with the hatchet in June 2019 while spending time with a friend. He saw the hatchet, which reminded him of his favorite childhood book, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, the lawsuit says.
He decided to take a picture and post it on his personal social media.
“Without any reason other than sheer recklessness, Netflix misappropriated the Hazlewood photo and used it in two separate parts of the film,” the lawsuit reads.
Who is Caleb McGillvary?
McGillvary, also known as Kai the Hitchhiker, rose to fame through an interview with a television station in Fresno, California, in which he described an attack on a man with a hatchet in February 2013.
In the interview, McGillvary said he was in the front passenger seat of someone else’s vehicle when the driver struck a pedestrian and pushed him into a truck.
When a passer-by tried to help her, the driver attacked her, according to McGillvary Interviewed by KMPH FOX26 News. McGillvary said he attacked the driver with a hatchet to save the bystander, the interview said, which includes explicit language.
That same year, McGillvary was arrested for murder in connection with the death of 73-year-old New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy. He claimed he killed Galfy in self-defense because Galfy drugged and raped him after offering him housing.
McGillvary was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2019 and is currently serving 57 years in prison. according to the Fresno Bee.
Despite being the main character of the Netflix documentary, McGillvary is also suing the company. He claims that they “ruthlessly exploit a hero’s life story for money.” according to the Fresno Bee.
Netflix is named as one of dozens of defendants McGillvary alleges stole intellectual property, meddled in business dealings and stripped him of “his hero title for their own selfish gain.”