HBO News Blog

HBO Sued Over LUCK!

By Jef Dinsmore on Jan 5, 2013 to Luck

Just when HBO’s LUCK was finally just a memory it pulls us back in. HBO has just been slapped with a lawsuit this past week. Of course, it is over the LUCK-castdeaths of three horses that occurred at the Santa Anita Park doing filming of the HBO series starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte among others.

Here are the specifics. The lawsuit was filed by Barbara Casey, a former employee of the American Humane Association (AHA), who alleges that HBO and producers, Stewart Productions, mistreated horses on set and both parties along with the AHA participated in a months-long abuse cover-up. Casey was a longtime veteran of the organization who served as a liaison between the animal rights institution and Hollywood production houses. She was on set during the filming of LUCK. She states in the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that the AHA observed drugged, underweight and/or sick horses routinely used for work on the show and the misidentification of horses by producers so that animal safety reps couldn’t track their medical historieLUCK_shoots easily. Casey also says HBO & Stewart Productions wanted to save time and money and that rather than cooperate with AHA, the production companies pressured the organization to allow them to violate the AHA’s animal safety standards.

Eventually, the deaths were news items and a hot topic for animal rights activists and that furor led to the cancellation of the drama. The other part of the lawsuit is against HBO and the AHA for wrongful termination. Casey claims she wanted to contact law enforcement about the mistreatment, but that AHA fired her for threatening to speak out in January 2012. The lawsuit states that the  –

“AHA bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the Production Defendants’ conduct to the authorities. AHA terminated Plaintiff’s employment in order to prevent her from reporting the violation of animal abuse.”

There has been a lot of talk about this matter across the web and papers and the Hollywood Reporter actually got a statement from HBO that reads –

“We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA.”


HBOWatch will do its best to keep you informed about HBO’s run of bad LUCK.

  • Gg

    It was a boring series…too bad for the horses, just think that their death is an excuse to cover up the fact that it was cancelled for being VERY boring…

  • GOTFanatic

    My God, clearly many of the Lucky fans don’t find it a problem that “a few horses died” in the making of a television show. In this day and age, there is NO reason why a horse should die during production of any show for any reason, including “accidents.” Many people dropped the ball here, and I applaud Barbara Casey for bringing it to everyone’s attention. Yes, more horses die in horse-racing – does that make it right? That is HARDLY a justification for this loss.

    • Rococo

      The show was called Luck and I wonder if you saw it. I don’t bat an eyelash at the horse deaths because I get the most entertainment from my subscription from a brutal sport involving human combatants trying to bludgeon each other into unconsciousness and causes an occasional death. That sport has been bankrolled by our favorite network for over 30 years. I prefer debauchery and carnal, primal forms of entertainment as I would imagine most fans of HBO do. On the scale of things I am concerned about, horse deaths rank just above alligator deaths and just below dolphin deaths.

  • Matt

    It’s pretty clear we’re looking at a disgruntled ex-employee here. HBO has publicly released their safety protocols they had in place (which were much more stringent than required), the manner of death of the THREE horses over the course of ten episodes isn’t consistent with what’s being argued here (not to mention that if things had been as bad as she’s claiming, many more horses would have died), and the creator of this show – David Milch – is a massive horse lover, and wouldn’t have stood for that type of treatment. Everyone saying “shame in HBO…” and the like would do well to do a little research into this before declaring them at fault. Accidents happen. More horses die at a single race than died during the production of this wonderful show, and isn’t that ultimately just for entertainment, as well? Where’s the uproar for those horses? Pretty hypocritical, if you ask me.

  • dion pangallo

    I personally think that it is pretty lame for a show to be outright cancelled due to a few animals dying. Not that I at all condone mistreatment of animals, on the contrary I’m sure these horses were treated as good if not better than any other race horses out there. The facts are: Race (or any other kind for that matter) horses often get inured and die. Horses are farmed just like any other animal consumed by humans – people eat horse meat all around the world. These idiots that go after HBO because of a few unfortunate accidents are f*cking ridiculous!! GET OVER IT!!! If you really care about animals so much, then go after the real harm do-ers in the world for f*ck sake!!! This show had SO much potential… a real shame HBO caved into the political BS pressure. LAME!!!!!

    • I Despise Idiots

      One of the most appalling and disgusting comments Ive ever read. You seriously think its ok to mistreat an animal at any time? Just so another stupid tv show can be made? How many ridiculous shows are out right now? So many of them are being cancelled cuz theres TOOOO MANY!! If these people at HBO werent so sick and greedy, they wouldnt be blowing money on things that sane people know will never work out. Horse racing is despicable. Its not a sport!! The only one doing all the work is the poor horse. I cant believe Im reading such a pig-like statement. Barbara Casey did her job, when the AHA didnt. Thats pretty scary to me. Clearly the AHA is totally corrupt and evil. To mistreat an animal, force it to run all day long while its sick or hungry. How would you like to run all day long in the hot sun without any food or water? While youre sick? People that have no compassion for innocent helpless creatures that have no voice, deserve to be locked inside a cage for a year and then buried 6ft under. Your silly name says it all. Dion Pagallo, clearly a foreigner. Some sick nasty piece of filth who came from a third world country. This is America, jack*ss. There are rules. Here, its against the law to kill 3 horses for your own amusement. You dont like it, get the eff out. And feel free to take your 6 baby mamas and your 15 kids with you. Freakin hoodlum.

  • Rococo

    I don’t care about the dead horses as putting horses down happens each and every day at a real racetrack. I would have liked to see the show continue on but don’t see it as as big a loss as it could have been.

    I think there was brilliance on display from the photography, direction and performances as well as passion from the show runners. However it was so frustrating to see what should have been A+ across the board have rudimentary failures such as the above mentioned episode conventions, an unbelievable villian played by Michael Gambon in an otherwise realistic circumstance who was written much too over the top. I also tire of shows where each episode takes place over the course of single day and ending every episode with Ace being given milk and cookies by Dennis Farina also incredibly tiresome and naturally predictable.

  • ava

    Might just be a disgruntled AHA employee….None of the horses looked sick to me,and HBO usually spares no expense.

    • Jef Dinsmore

      All of that will be decided in court.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    You are quite welcome. I agree with both of you. Nothing is worth those consequences.

    PROJECT NIM, if you haven’t seen it, looks at that type of situation as well. Instead of using/abusing animals for entertainment purposes the case is argued in that piece that the animal, Nim, is needed for scientific reasons. It leaves you numb.

  • Richard Parker

    It’s an unfortunate situation. The show was just starting to find it’s stride with the last 2 episodes, but no type of entertainment should result in the death of horses, period. Thanks for the article.

  • That is so totally shameful of HBO and AHA. Kudos to Ms. Casey for doing her job . . . regardless.

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