Famous Los Angeles Attorney Mark Geragos, who’s represented the likes of Winona Ryder, singer Chris Brown and “the king” Michael Jackson, is currently facing some legal trouble of his own. Geragos, who also represented pop star Kesha Sebert in 2014 during litigation against Dr. Luke, is currently facing a defamation lawsuit over tweets he sent out implying that Dr. Luke had raped Lady Gaga.While Geragos was representing Kesha against Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, Geragos tweeted a link to an article about Lady Gaga’s interview with Howard Stern. In the interview with Howard Stern, Gaga revealed to him that she was sexually assaulted as a teenager. She told Stern that the song “Swine” off of her 2013 album Artpop, was written as an expression of the rage she felt about the whole situation.
After tweeting a link to the article, Geragos sent another tweet to his 48,000 plus followers – “Guess who the rapists [sic] was?” Geragos said. When someone responded with “Lukasz” – he simply replied “#bingo.”
Dr. Luke is suing Geragos, as well as his law firm. On Tuesday, a New York state court judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit against Geragos and his firm stating that the defamation claims are “minimally adequate” and can proceed.
“Here, plaintiff has pleaded allegations which, if true, may state a legally cognizable cause of action against defendants,” wrote New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Reed. Judge Reed ordered both sides to move forward on discovery, “particularly as it relates to the substance of the various asserted defenses, including the various assertions of privilege.”
Geragos’ attorney Edward Kelly of Kelly, Rode & Kelly in Mineola, New York argues that since the statement was made on Twitter, the statement is constitutionally protected expressions of opinion under New York law and must be viewed through the prism and culture of social media.
“[T]he law involving defamation, slander, and libel as applicable to statements made through channels such as Twitter, Facebook and the like has begun to adapt and evolve,” Kelly wrote in an affidavit. That’s especially true, he noted, when posters “resort to rhetorical hyperbole in interaction with other users.”
The lawsuit also points to an interview Geragos did with TMZ shortly after he sent out the tweets. In the interview, Geragos said he decide to post the tweets “because it’s true.” Dr. Luke’s attorney pointed to that as another defamatory claim. However, Geragos and his attorney Kelly are arguing that since the interview was conducted by TMZ, it was obviously gossip and should not be taken as factual statements.
“Quite simply, Mr. Geragos was commenting on the article and engaging in discussion with the public, as he frequently does,” Kelly wrote in the affidavit. “Posting the provocative comment ‘guess the rapist’ on Twitter clearly implies the poster’s intent to engage in a non-serious, gossipy and hyperbolic interaction. Additionally, the use of the term ‘bingo’ in and of itself suggests a lack of seriousness.”
Regardless, a judge made a decision and the defamation case against Geragos and his firm will proceed. He attempted to transfer the case from New York to California but his request has been denied.
Defamation laws vary from state-to-state, but there are normally some expected standards that make the laws similar no matter where you are. Generally speaking, in order to win your lawsuit, you must show that:
- Someone made a statement;
- that statement was published;
- the statement caused you injury;
- the statement was false; and
- the statement did not fall into a privileged category