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Quantic Dream wins appeal tossing out lawsuit alleging toxic workplace

Statement calls it a vindication of a studio smeared by 2018 press accounts

Beyond: Two Souls screenshots
Elliot Page starred in 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, developed by Quantic Dream.
Image: Quantic Dream/Sony Interactive Entertainment

A French appellate court has overturned a judgment against Quantic Dream, the maker of Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human, and other prestige titles, which found itself and founder David Cage accused of tolerating workplace racism, sexism, and harassment in a series of press reports in early 2018.

The successful appeal overturned a July 2018 ruling in favor of a former employee who sued Quantic Dream, alleging a toxic workplace had driven them from their job. Cage and other studio executives vehemently denied the claims, and the accounts given to France’s Le Monde, Mediapart, and Canard PC in January of that year.

In a statement posted Saturday, Quantic Dream cast the ruling, by the Court of Appeal of Paris, as a vindication for the studio, and the repudiation of what it called a smear campaign carried out in the press and on social media.

“These accusations, formally denied by the company, its managers, its Staff Representatives, and its employees, and contradicted by the reality of objectively verifiable facts, seriously damaged the honor and reputation of the studio,” Quantic Dream said.

In the French legal system, the Court of Appeal of Paris is one rung below a case’s court of last resort, for this case the Court of Cassation. It’s unknown whether any parties intend to appeal, or what the chances are that the court would hear the matter.

Quantic Dream’s statement also pointed to three other judgments, handed down in January 2018 and November 2019, “initially confirmed, indisputably, that no ‘toxic’ atmosphere prevailed in the company, that no discrimination of any kind had taken place, and that the management had immediately taken the necessary measures, on the very day it became aware of certain problematic photomontages.”

A slew of altered digital images was central to all of the court cases and media allegations. The articles alleged that pictures circulated at the studio rendered staff members into sexual scenes, or in Nazi uniforms. The Paris Court of Appeals ruled that none of the images involving the plaintiff were homophobic, racist, or degrading toward that plaintiff. More importantly, the court said there was no link between the publication of any degrading images involving other staff members and the departure of the employee in question.

The studio said that the April 7 ruling by the Paris Court of Appeal “dismissed all the employee’s claims, ordering them to pay substantial damages to Quantic Dream.” reported that figure to be €10,138.

An earlier judgment involving another plaintiff ordered Quantic Dream to pay €7,000 in restitution and court costs to a former employee made to look like they were giving a Nazi salute. The court, however, rejected that employee’s demand for €114,000 and a finding that they were unfairly dismissed, which would have exposed the studio to more damages.

After the accounts hit the media in 2018, Cage lashed out at the publications, and the studio vowed to clear its name in court. Cage called the allegations “ridiculous, absurd, and grotesque,” and demanded that the public “judge my work,” before labeling him or his studio racist or homophobic.

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