How a porn star sued production house over shoot gone very wrong

April 16, 2024
Porn star sues production house over shoot gone very wrong

A top adult film star alleges she was forced to participate in an onscreen orgy against her will and then became the victim of a vicious smear campaign after a fellow performer overdosed on prescription drugs and nearly died while on set.

Now, Melissa Hutchison, who is known to her fans as Phoenix Marie, claims to be out multiple millions and a deal with the Fleshlight brand of sex toys, according to a $30 million federal lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast.

The situation has led to “anxiety, panic attacks, sleepless nights, and sexual dysfunction,” Hutchison maintains.

George Robinson, Hutchison's attorney, initially filed the lawsuit in February in Clark County, Nevada district court, after which it was removed to federal court at the request of the defendants over jurisdictional issues. Robinson told The Daily Beast he will soon be refiling an amended complaint, which will increase Hutchison's demand to $80 million.

“It is a very intriguing case,” Robinson said.

In a joint statement, Robinson and co-counsel Sterling Kerr said, “Everyone deserves the right to a workplace that is safe, secure, and free from physical and sexual assault—even porn stars.”

The production company and industry executives who allegedly wronged Hutchison “had a chance to stand behind their public commitments to safe working environments, and instead they used the unregulated power of their Big Porn monopoly to launch a coverup and retaliatory smear campaign” against her, they said, adding, “We're looking forward to holding them accountable, not only to find justice for Melissa, but also to put an end to their heyday of destroying people's lives on a whim so they can line their executives' pockets through the abuse, mistreatment, and exploitation of performers.”

Hutchison was at the Exxxotica conference in Chicago and unable to comment in time for publication, Robinson's office said.

It all started with an anal sex scene, according to Hutchison's complaint.

Last October, the Las Vegas-based Hutchison travelled to Barcelona for a shoot with, among others, actor/producer/director and self-described “British stud” Danny D, physical therapist-turned-porn star Cherie DeVille, and a “young female with the screen name Zaawaadi,” the complaint states.

The 42-year-old, known for playing “MILF” roles, has been “one of the most prolific and popular stars in the industry” for the past 18 years, according to the complaint.

Hutchison, who said she was once set ablaze on a porn set, also has training as an emergency medical technician, has held a day job as a medical assistant for the better part of a decade, and is known to be meticulous about safety while filming, the complaint contends, noting she “is very concerned and passionate about female sexual health.”

“As a veteran of the adult film industry, she tries to educate and assist the younger actresses about sexual health issues whenever she can,” it explains.

The production at the centre of Hutchison's lawsuit took place at a luxe Spanish home where the cast and crew were also staying for the duration, according to the complaint. It says that Hutchison, given her two decades of experience, took it upon herself to counsel Zaawaadi before her first-ever anal sex scene.

Zaawaadi had informed Hutchison that she had taken three Imodium tablets, an anti-diarrheal, to avoid any unpleasant accidents during the scene, the complaint states. It says Hutchison told Zaawaadi that three Imodium exceeded the recommended dose, and could cause dehydration “and other complications,” so she gave Zaawaadi two natural probiotic pills and two tablets of Senokot, a natural laxative, to help counter any potential ill effects.

“These over-the-counter remedies were to be taken immediately after the scene to prevent issues associated with anal sex scenes like tearing, yeast infections, and bowel obstructions,” the complaint states.

During a bit of downtime at the residence, Danny D's girlfriend, Liss Lacao, who was also the shoot's makeup artist/production manager/talent liaison, told Hutchison that she had been dealing with , according to the complaint. It says her relationship with Danny D, who was not only acting in the film but directing it, as well, “was sometimes difficult for her to deal with because he was having sexual intercourse with numerous other partners as an adult actor and casually with no formal commitment to her.”

“Liss was taking lithium because of this depression,” the complaint goes on. “Liss made [it] known to Hutchison that she has lithium that she had purchased to self-medicate for her depression related to Danny D. On the final day of shooting, Hutchison was performing in an orgy scene by the pool with Danny D and the remaining female actresses.”

Danny D. was at the Barcelona shoot with his partner, Liss, who was also the makeup artist, production manager, and talent assistant.

Reached by phone in London, Lacao told The Daily Beast she was “not willing to discuss” Hutchison's allegations, given the active litigation.

“At the moment, I'm not going to comment on anything, just, obviously, because of the situation,” she said.

Danny D, whose full name is Danny Martin, “would say exactly the same,” Lacao said, declining comment on his behalf. (He did not reply to interview requests sent through his website.)

In the middle of the orgy scene, the complaint says Liss burst out of the house screaming, “Emergency, emergency! She can't breathe!” Hutchison, being a trained EMT, immediately stopped what she was doing and ran inside to help, according to the complaint. There, she saw Zaawaadi lying on the couch, “shaking violently and screaming that she couldn't breathe.” Hutchison grabbed Zaawaadi's face and told her that “if she could speak, she was breathing,” the complaint states, adding that Hutchison yelled for someone to call an ambulance right away and “started emergency care.”

“Hutchison tried to keep Zaawaadi calm and regulate her breathing while she evaluated her, called Zaawaadi's sister for her medical history, and got her some fluids once her sister was on the phone,” the complaint says. “Hutchison asked [Zaawaadi] if she had taken any drugs or medicines lately, and she said, ‘Only the 4 pills you gave me.' Hutchison knew that the pills that she had given Zaawaadi would not have caused this reaction. The girl continued to shake and have difficulty breathing as a person would during a seizure or neurological episode.”

However, according to Hutchison, Danny D—who sells his used underwear and socks online for hundreds of dollars a pop, along with lifelike dildos modelled on his own genitalia—was “reluctant” to involve the authorities, and waited more than an hour to summon help. Once it became clear that Zaawaadi's life was in danger, the complaint says, Danny D finally made the call, and an ambulance arrived to take Zaawaadi to the hospital.

Zaawaadi wanted Hutchison to ride there with her, according to the complaint, but Danny D forbade her to leave the set, it says.

“Hutchison was very upset and declined to continue the scene as Zaawaadi had a serious life-threatening medical event, and no one had any way of knowing if the girl was going to live or die,” the complaint states. “Hutchison was severely shaken that this had happened and pleaded with Danny D. to shoot the scene at another time. Danny D. insisted that they finish the scene, so Hutchison continued filming the orgy scene against her will.”

When the scene was over, Hutchison says she was “very distraught” about what had occurred, and wanted to go to the hospital to check up on Zaawaadi. But Danny D forbade her from leaving, according to the complaint.

Danny D and his attorneys did not respond to The Daily Beast's requests for comment.

The next morning, the complaint alleges Danny D “lied” to Hutchison, falsely telling her that the police had come to the house late the night before and “forced” him to go to the hospital. He said that Zaawaadi had “overdosed on lithium,” and that doctors had put her in a medically induced coma. Danny D then showed Hutchison a video of Zaawaadi “thrashing around and convulsing” in her hospital bed, the complaint states.

Danny D “interrogated Hutchison about lithium, even though Hutchison knew it was Liss who had the lithium in the house,” the complaint continues. He then made her show him the probiotics and laxatives she had on hand and took pictures of it all, but found no lithium in her possession, according to the complaint.

“With Zaawaadi in a critical medical state, Danny D was protecting Liss from an investigation for Zaawaadi's death by lithium poisoning,” according to the complaint. “Danny D knew that Hutchison was the perfect scapegoat for the poisoning, so he concocted a story about the poisoning. Zaawaadi falsely stated during the medical event that she had only taken the pills that she had given her.”

Danny D was aware that Hutchison's 18-year-old daughter died of cancer a few years ago, and devised a phoney tale that “it must have been Hutchison that had the lithium because of her depression from the death of her daughter,” the complaint states.

“Ironically, Hutchison had helped Danny D treat his own depression and suicidal ideations, which he has talked about publicly,” it says.

A day later, as Zaawaadi—who did not respond to a request for comment—remained hospitalized, the entire cast and crew were scheduled to fly to Berlin for a porn industry convention, according to the complaint. It claims the others “abandoned Hutchison at the airport,” and left her to travel by herself. That evening, at her hotel in Berlin, Hutchison became aware that “false accusations were already spreading” about what had happened to Zaawaadi in Barcelona.

She was summoned to a room on the second floor of the hotel, where the complaint says a group of production executives said “awful, hurtful things” to her, such as, “We feel like you haven't properly coped with the death of your daughter,” and that the man she was dating was a “piece of shit” and that she should leave him. The execs accused Hutchison of drinking and using drugs, claiming she was slurring her speech, and blamed her for Zaawaadi's condition.

They told her to leave Berlin and go back to the U.S. and rejected Hutchison's plea for everyone who was in Barcelona to be blood-tested for lithium so she could prove it wasn't her, according to the complaint. It became clear that Hutchison was being unfairly condemned for what had happened to Zaawaadi, the complaint states.

“Hutchison was completely shocked and devastated as she had done her best to save Zaawaadi's life,” it says. “While everyone else sat around and watched and didn't even call for emergency help when asked, [Hutchison] was [now] being blamed for what had happened.”

Further, according to a spokesperson for Hutchison's attorneys, company policy requires a second “safety camera” to be continuously recording at all times, even after a scene wraps. This would have proven Hutchison's version of was accurate, according to the spokesperson.

The production execs offered Hutchison a $60,000 payment to sign an NDA, which she refused to do, the spokesperson said.

Rumours began to circulate throughout the industry, as Danny D and the production execs went into damage-control mode, according to the suit. It says one “very well-known adult actress” told Hutchison she heard that “Spain was a shit show,” and that Hutchison was to blame.

A male performer told Hutchison that a mutual friend warned him to “distance himself from working with Phoenix Marie in the future as there's something shady going on around her,” the filing states.

And in late November 2023, two well-known adult actresses “both unfollowed Hutchison on at the same time under circumstances that indicate they were told lies about Hutchison,” according to the complaint. Another “untagged Hutchison from all of the podcasts they had done together,” it says, alleging that popular sites like Pornhub that carried Hutchison's videos subsequently tweaked their algorithms to bury her work.

They also warned other performers not to associate with Hutchison, which the complaint says has affected her life to the point that she can't find a makeup artist willing to work with her, her lawyers' spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

In January 2024, Hutchison attended the XBIZ Show in Los Angeles, one of the porn industry's top conferences, according to the complaint.

At the confab, a male porn actor told Hutchison that he had heard rumblings about the “drama” now surrounding her, but that he was on her side.

Another, who is described in the complaint as “one of the biggest stars in the industry,” told Hutchison that he “heard things were going on,” and “hoped she was okay.”

In a series of text messages, the wife of a third male performer told Hutchison that the situation was “very messed up,” and “all demented,” but that the production executives behind the smear campaign were “coming from a good place, not a bad one.”

It was all too much for Hutchison to bear, the complaint states. Hutchison says her industry colleagues at XBIZ watched her “break down in the middle of the show and cry for over an hour, and she couldn't finish her autograph signing.”

On the bright side, Zaawaadi recovered after being in a coma for five days, and is now “healthy and performing again,” according to the complaint.

“Unfortunately,” it says, “Hutchison's career did not recover after saving Zaawaadi's life.”

“Hutchison's career and brand has been ruined, and she has been defamed by the same executives that she always thought were like her family and friends and close colleagues,” the complaint contends.

She blames Danny D, Ethical Capital Partners, a Canadian venture capital firm which owns Aylo—the company that operates Pornhub, and a producer of the film Hutchison was shooting in Barcelona when Zaawaadi ODed—and three Aylo execs, for her troubles.

“She has already lost more than $100,000.00 per month in revenue because of Defendants' tortious interference with the promotion of her videos and sites,” according to the complaint. “Aylo is responsible for Ms. Hutchison's severe emotional distress caused by being subjected to forced sex acts to finish the orgy video after a girl that she knew almost died in her arms, being interrogated, assaulted by, and lied to by Danny D. about the incident, and the statements by the executives regarding her emotional state after the death of her daughter.”

The “malicious and false” claims, the complaint alleges, has “actively disrupted” Hutchison's contractual relationships, “i.e. Fleshlight deal and conventions, etc.” She is asking for general and special damages of “over $10,000,000.00,” punitive damages “in amounts sufficient to punish Defendants for the tortious conduct in an amount over $20,000,000.00,” pre-judgment interest, attorneys' fees, and “such other and further relief that this Court deems just and proper.”

A spokesperson for Ethical Capital Partners told The Daily Beast, “Out of respect for the integrity of court proceedings, our policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation. We look forward to the facts being fully and fairly aired in that forum.”

Initial statements in the case are due to be submitted by April 23.

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