9:00 AM PDT, June 15, 2022
This article was updated on June 15, 2022 to reflect new developments in the case.
The director of Cameron Boyce’s final movie has voluntarily dropped a civil case seeking a declaratory judgment, which alleged misconduct against the film’s financiers, Harvey and Chrysanthi Berger, whose then-14-year-old daughter Nicole Berger co-starred in the film.
In his May 18 court filing, William Coakley claimed that Nicole’s parents created a “toxic and hostile work environment” on the set of “Runt,” an indie thriller mainly shot in 2018. Among the allegations was that the Bergers “coerced” Boyce into performing a kissing scene with Nicole during production.
Boyce rose to fame as a child actor in various Disney projects, including the “Descendants” franchise. He died at the age of 20 in July 2019, while “Runt” was still in post-production.
Coakley had sought a declaratory judgment from New York County Supreme Court on whether or not a nondisclosure disagreement he signed prevents him from going public with the allegations or reporting them to the authorities.
Coakley also claimed in the now-dropped complaint that the movie was unfinished and “conveyed an unethical and dangerous message.” He alleged that he was prevented from removing his name from the credits after the fact, which he says led him to release a statement on social media prior to the film’s release.
On June 8, the Bergers, through their lawyers, motioned to dismiss the case, flatly denying all of Coakley’s allegations and arguing that Coakley lacks standing and the court lacks jurisdiction.
In the alternative, they contended that the court should order Coakley to refile his complaint that redacts “confidential information” protected by the NDA.
“[Coakley] disclosed the confidential information at issue, and then sought, retroactively, a judgment authorizing the disclosure he has already made — disclosure protected, thus far, by a privilege against defamation,” the Bergers’ attorneys wrote in the motion. “The court should not condone these tactics, which unilaterally give libel-proof relief to Coakley while depriving [the Bergers] of their presumptively-enforceable contractual right to confidentiality.”
In their filing, the Bergers also claimed that Coakley cyber-bullied and harassed their family in order to “seek revenge” on them and alleged he sent disturbing and violent text messages about Nicole on several instances.
They also alleged that Coakley’s director’s statement, although it did not identify anyone by name, led “complete strangers” to “cyber-attack” the Bergers.
“They did so via social-media communications directed not only to the Bergers themselves but also to Dr. Berger’s business and professional colleagues and — even worse — to Nicole Berger’s real-life schoolmates and teachers, which forced the authorities at Nicole’s high school to block such communications,” the Bergers’ filing alleges.
“Runt” producer Carl Rumbaugh, Chrysanthi Berger and Cameron’s mother, Elizabeth Boyce, filed affidavits in support of the motion to dismiss the case. Both Rumbaugh and Boyce’s mother stated that they did not witness any inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct on set.
“Mr. Coakley does not speak for Cameron. In fact, I don’t think that Mr. Coakley has the right to speak for Cameron, and I hope that the Court will not let Mr. Coakley do that,” Elizabeth Boyce wrote.
It was this statement that prompted Coakley to withdraw his case on June 10, according to a letter the director wrote to the court.
Coakley also said in a statement to Inside Edition Digital: “Every word in my suit is true, has been corroborated many times over, and that evidence and testimony remain available to me. The only reason I dropped the case was the addition of Mrs. Boyce’s shocking affidavit blatantly denying the humiliating treatment her son complained about during filming. Many years ago my writing partner, on whose life ‘Runt’ was based, also died tragically at a young age. I saw what that kind of excruciating grief can do to a family, and cannot in good conscience allow myself to be pitted against Mrs. Boyce.”
“Everything else in the defendants’ everything-but-the-kitchen-sink filing ranges from outright lies to distorted nonsense, trying to distract from their own abuses and ongoing threats to sue anyone who attempts to speak out,” Coakley wrote.