Cardi B Wins Over $4 Million in Defamation Lawsuit - Romano Law

Cardi B Wins Over $4 Million in Defamation Lawsuit

Cardi B Wins Over $4 Million in Defamation Lawsuit

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Cardi B, also known as Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar, was awarded over $4 million dollars in January 2022 after winning her defamation case against Tasha K, also known as Latasha Transrina Kebe.  This lawsuit arose from false allegations Tasha K made about the Grammy award-winning rapper in dozens of Tasha K’s YouTube videos.  This is an unusually successful case, because proving actual damages in defamation cases can be a challenge.

Why did Cardi B Sue Tasha K?

In 2019, Cardi B sued Tasha K for publishing more than 30 YouTube videos where Tasha K falsely claimed Cardi B was a prostitute, used drugs and contracted sexually transmitted diseases, among other accusations.  With nearly one million subscribers to her YouTube channel, the videos on the page sometimes receive hundreds of thousands of views.  According to Cardi B, Tasha K’s lies spread online and caused Cardi B to suffer severe emotional distress.  Before filing the lawsuit, Cardi B sent several cease-and-desist letters to Tasha K.  The YouTuber largely ignored the cease-and-desist letters and continued to post defamatory content about Cardi B.

The Lawsuit  

Cardi B’s lawsuit against Tasha K included claims of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy through portrayal in a false light.  This article focuses primarily on the defamation claim.  Defamation is the publication or communication of a false statement of fact about a person to a third party, which causes harm to the subject’s reputation or constitutes defamation per se and is published without privilege or consent.

Cardi B claimed that Tasha K’s statements about her were false, and that Tasha K did not confirm the accuracy of these claims before publicizing them on her popular YouTube channel.  Because of this, Cardi B alleged that Tasha K caused the rapper severe emotional distress and reputational harm, among other damages.  

Tasha K replied with several defenses, including that her statements were true and that Cardi B, a public figure, could not prove actual malice.  First, truth is an absolute defense to defamation.  Additionally, in defamation cases involving public figure plaintiffs, the plaintiff (here, Cardi B) must show that the defendant (Tasha K) made the false statement to third parties with “actual malice.”  Actual malice is defined as acting with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not[i].  Cardi B is a well-known public figure.  Thus, Cardi B had to prove that the statements were false and Tasha K acted with the knowledge that her statements were false or that she published with a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statement.

Tasha K also brought counterclaims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Tasha K’s claims were based on allegations that Cardi B had assaulted and threatened her about the statements Tasha K made.  These claims were also based on the fact that after learning about the lawsuit and Cardi B’s suffering, Cardi B’s fans began to attack Tasha K online.  Cardi B replied with several defenses, including that she should not be liable for the actions of third parties.

These claims were heard in court through a motion for summary judgment that was filed by Cardi B for her claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as Tasha K’s counterclaims.  A motion for summary judgment is a request by a party asking the court to decide all or part of the claims in a lawsuit without going to trial, because there is no dispute about the important facts of a case.

The judge denied Cardi B’s motion for summary judgment on her claims, stating that there was a dispute about the case’s important facts that should be heard by a jury.  The judge did, however, grant Cardi B’s motion for summary judgment as to Tasha K’s counterclaims, holding that Tasha K provided no evidence provided to prove her claims against Cardi B.    

After the summary judgment stage, the case went to trial on Cardi B’s claims.  Both Tasha K and Cardi B testified at the trial.  Cardi B emphasized the severe emotional distress Tasha K’s statements caused her, including the anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts the false statements induced.  Tasha K testified she intentionally made the accusations about Cardi B, knowing they were false and without any evidence to prove them.  She admitted to refusing to take down any of her videos about Cardi B, as they were making her money and helping her business.  After hearing testimony and arguments from both sides, the jury ruled in favor of Cardi B on all claims.

Cardi B Wins Over $4 Million in Damages and an Injunction

Although Cardi B did not specify the amount she was requesting in general damages, Cardi B’s attorney specifically argued for a large amount in punitive damages, stating that other online users should be deterred from making false statements like in this case.  The jury awarded Cardi B $1 million in general damages, $1.5 million in punitive damages, $1,338,753.47 in litigation expenses and $250,000 in medical expenses.  However, the parties agreed to reduce the medical expense damages to $25k, due to the fact that Cardi B’s actual medical expenses were around $10k for therapy sessions.

Recently, Cardi B sought, and won, a permanent injunction against Tasha K because several of the defamatory statements remained online weeks after Cardi B’s successful jury verdict.  The judge ordered Tasha K to take down many videos and some social media posts that contained the false statements.  Tasha K is also barred from publishing or re-publishing any of the defamatory statements.

Tasha K is currently appealing the original verdict to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 

Conclusion

Though Cardi B was very successful in her case at the trial level, this dispute is not over.  If the Eleventh Circuit overturns the verdict on appeal, among other possibilities, the damages award to Cardi B and injunction could also be impacted.

Defamation claims and defenses are very fact-specific.  If you have a potential claim or are facing a lawsuit for defamation, contact an experienced litigator to discuss your case.

[i] New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964) 

Contributions to this blog by Olivia Loftin.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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This Blog is made available by Romano Law PLLC for general informational and educational purposes only, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this Blog you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Romano Law PLLC or any individual contributor. You should consult a licensed professional attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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