Cardi B wins at Court
02 February 2022
Rapper and songwriter, Cardi B, has recently been awarded over $4 million after winning a defamation claim against a YouTuber, following a “malicious campaign” of false accusations.
In March 2019, Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almánzar, issued proceedings in Atlanta USA against a popular YouTuber, Tasha K, whose real name is Latasha Kebe, over videos posted on the celebrity gossip blogger’s social media channels. Despite receiving a cease and desist letter following a video posted in September 2018, the Defendant continued to publish false statements online and identified the Plaintiff by her professional name, occupation and photographs.
Almánzar claimed Kebe had waged a campaign of “making blatantly defamatory statements” about her to promote Kebe’s YouTube channel, which currently has almost one million subscribers, “for her personal financial gain”.
The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant had published multiple false and defamatory statements about the Plaintiff and that, at the time of publishing, the Defendant knew the statements were false or had acted with reckless disregard of whether they were true or not. The Plaintiff claimed general and special damages for the damage to her reputation and the embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress caused by the Defendant’s actions.
On 24th January 2022, a jury found the Defendant liable for slander (the spoken form of defamation), libel (the written form of defamation) and invasion of privacy.
The Plaintiff was awarded $1 million in damages for the pain, suffering and reputational damage caused, together with $250,000 to cover medical expenses incurred by the Plaintiff to prove the defamatory statements were false. The Defendant was then ordered to pay a further $1 million in punitive damages and her company, Kebe Studios LLC, to pay another $500,000, together with the Plaintiff’s legal costs.
Defamation in Northern Ireland
It is important to note that this case was heard in Atlanta USA and defamation laws vary throughout different jurisdictions.
In Northern Ireland, a person, including certain entities, may bring a claim in defamation where they can prove three things:
- That publication to a third party has taken place;
- That the publication identifies them in such a way that reasonable readers would understand that it refers to the Plaintiff; and
- That the publication is indeed defamatory of the Plaintiff, i.e. their reputation has suffered or is likely to suffer as a result of the publication. This may result in the court determining the “meaning” of the words complained of.
A Plaintiff has one year from the date of publication to issue proceedings.
There are three main defences to a defamation claim, namely justification, honest comment and responsible publication on a matter of public interest (Reynolds privilege). The burden of proving the defences, on the balance of probabilities, lies with the Defendant.
For example, if the Defendant pleads justification, they must prove that the statement complained of is substantially true. In the Almánzar v Kebe action, Kebe was unable to prove the truth of many of her publications as the Plaintiff provided medical evidence to show that the Defendant’s statements were factually incorrect and, ultimately, assisted the Plaintiff in winning her claim.