Updated: Sept. 29, 2022
Rapper and songwriter, Cardi B, was awarded more than $4 million by a jury in January 2022 after winning a defamation case against YouTube personality, Tasha K. The lawsuit arose from allegations Tasha K made about the Grammy-winning artist in dozens of YouTube videos. This was an unusually successful case, because proving actual damages in defamation cases can be challenging.
WHY DID CARDI B SUE TASHA K?
In 2019, Cardi B sued Tasha K for publishing more than 30 YouTube videos where Tasha K claimed Cardi B was a prostitute, used drugs and contracted sexually transmitted diseases, among other accusations. Tasha K has over one million subscribers to her YouTube channel. Her videos 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, which the YouTuber largely ignored. After receiving these letters, she continued to post unsavory content about Cardi B.
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 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 argued that Tasha K’s statements about her were false, and that Tasha K did not confirm the accuracy of these claims before blasting them to her followers on social media. Because of this, Cardi B alleged that Tasha K caused the rapper severe emotional distress and reputational harm, among other damages. In response, Tasha K raised several defenses, including that her statements were true and that Cardi B – a public figure – could not prove actual malice.
Truth is an absolute defense to defamation. Additionally, in defamation cases involving a public figure like Cardi B, the public figure must show that the defendant made the false statement with “actual malice.” The United States Supreme Court has ruled that “actual malice” is acting with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
Tasha K also brought counterclaims against Cardi B for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Tasha K alleged that Cardi B assaulted and threatened her about the statements at issue. These claims were also based on Cardi B’s fans attacking Tasha K online. Cardi B raised several defenses, including that she should not be liable for the actions of third parties.
Both parties sought summary judgment on their claims, arguing that no issue of fact existed that would require a jury trial. The Judge granted Cardi B’s motion for summary judgement concerning Tasha K’s counterclaims against her. The Judge declined to grant summary judgment regarding Cardi B’s claims, holding that there were disputes of fact that a jury would need to resolve.
After the summary judgment stage, the case proceeded to trial. Cardi B emphasized the severe emotional distress that Tasha K’s statements caused her, including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Tasha K, surprisingly, testified she intentionally made the accusations about Cardi B, knowing they were false and without any evidence to prove them. She admitted that she refused Cardi B’s requests to take down the videos, as she was profiting from them. 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 argued for punitive damages, stating that a large award would deter others from making false statements. The jury awarded Cardi B $1 million in general damages, $1.5 million in punitive damages, $1,338,753.47 for litigation expenses and $250,000 in medical expenses. Despite the jury’s award for medical expenses, the parties agreed to reduce these damages to $25,000, based on Cardi B’s actual medical expenses.
In post-trial proceedings, Cardi B also sought and obtained an injunction ordering Tasha K to take down videos and social media posts that contained the false statement. Tasha K is further barred from publishing or re-publishing any of the defamatory statements.
In May 2022, Tasha K appealed the original verdict to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit immediately dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction.
In August 2022, Tasha K submitted yet another appeal in hopes to reverse the decision. In the opening brief, Tasha K claims that there was not enough evidence to support a verdict in favor of Cardi B, therefore, the January verdict should be overturned.
Cardi B’s appellate brief is expected to be filed on October 28, 2022.
Tasha K’s appeal is not likely to be successful.
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.