Defamation is not a new phenomenon, but it is certainly no less prevalent nowadays than it was in the past. To learn more about this topic, and hear some celebrity stories along the way, read on for our top five celebrity defamation cases.
Social media has led to many more people having the chance to speak out on topics that interest them, no matter how controversial or potentially hurtful those opinions may be.
While this has led to a world of true freedom of speech, it has also led to hurt feelings and arguments among family, friends, and co-workers. In some cases, this can even lead to serious consequences like prison time for those involved.
A celebrity is a person who has risen to prominence in a particular sphere, for example, sports or entertainment. Defamation occurs when someone makes false statements about another person or entity. This can occur through written or spoken means. In many cases, celebrities have won defamation suit cases, but there have been times when they haven’t.
When you’re a celebrity and you’re always in the public eye, nothing you do is a secret. People are always watching you and reporters are always writing stories. To get clicks and attention, some publications and some people go as far as to make up bizarre lies and stories about celebrities.
Unfortunately for them, celebrities can fight back by suing either the publication or person for defamation because it’s illegal to defame someone in most states of the US.”
What is Defamation?
Defamation is generally defined as the publication of a false statement that injures another person’s reputation.
There are two ways a defamatory statement can be made:
- Online, in a printed publication, or on video.
- In spoken words.
There are a number of high-profile cases of defamation. One example is Johnny Depp’s libel case against The Sun newspaper, which referred to the movie star as a “wife-beater” in an April 2018 article.
Another recent example is Rebel Wilson’s defamation case against Australian publisher, Bauer Media, which claimed that she had lied about her real name and age in articles published in their publications.
There has been a significant rise in defamation cases in recent years due to the explosion of social media, unlike traditional media where stories are checked for factual inaccuracies before being published on websites, social media allows individuals to post comments at any time, unchecked.
Resolving a Defamation Case
Defamation claims arise when a person or company suffers damage to their reputation as a result of something that has been said about them. The nature of a defamation claim will depend on the nature of the publication and the circumstances in which it was made.
Litigation can be expensive, so often claimants are advised to seek alternatives, such as dispute resolution.
The claimant and defendant will usually want to resolve the matter quickly to limit the damage and distress caused by the accusation.
If you do decide to take your case to court, however, it should be done within one year of the alleged defamatory statement being published.
It’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible if you think you might have a cause of action against someone for defamation.
J. K. Rowling vs. the Daily Mail
Following the Daily Mail’s apology for an article containing allegations about Author JK Rowling has been “fully vindicated,” following the Daily Mail’s apology for alleging she wrote a “sob story” containing false claims about her time as a single mother, the high court has heard, a judge was told that the publisher has accepted the allegations were “completely false and indefensible”, published an apology, and undertaken not to repeat them.
Associated Newspapers has additionally agreed to pay the creator of Harry Potter substantial damages, which she is donating to charity, and to contribute to her legal costs, stated her lawyer.
Solicitor-advocate Keith Schilling read out a two-page statement saying the newspaper allegations left the writer “understandably distressed” however she was now pleased to bring her libel proceedings lodged in the name Joanne Kathleen Murray to a close.
Mr. Justice Warby, sitting at London’s high court, agreed they need to be ended, and “the record was withdrawn”.
Schilling described Rowling as an extremely successful author with a worldwide public profile.
On 18 September 2013, she wrote an article for the website of Gingerbread, the single parents’ charity, on her own experience as a single mom in Edinburgh while writing the first book of Harry Potter books.
She described just one occasion where a customer stigmatized her when she was working at her church.
Schilling stated at no point did Rowling criticize or complain about her treatment at the hands of fellow churchgoers, and actually, spoke about her time working at the church “with immense gratitude”.
Ten days after her article, on 28 September, the Daily Mail published a two-page article with the headline: “How JK Rowling’s sob story about her single mom past shocked and confused the church members who cared for her”.
Daily Mail additionally published the article with the headline: “How JK Rowling’s sob story about her past as a single mom has left the churchgoers who cared for her upset and bewildered”.
Schilling stated the article alleged Rowling “had given a knowingly false account” and “falsely and inexcusably accused her fellow churchgoers of behaving in a bigoted, unchristian manner towards her, of stigmatizing her and cruelly taunting her for being a single mom”.
The article additionally alleged that her Gingerbread account had been disputed by other members of the church, who have been left either upset and bewildered or surprised and confused by her “sob story”.
Schilling stated: “The claimant’s Gingerbread article was, actually, neither false accusations nor dishonest.”
Daily Mail journalist had spoken to one member of the congregation, quoted within the newspaper, who had not seen Rowling’s article.
Regardless of the Mail’s claims, members of the claimant’s church had not been left upset, bewildered, shocked, or confused.
Schilling stated: “Publication of the allegations left the claimant understandably distressed.
“This distress was exacerbated by the dismissive manner through which the defendant handled the claimant’s complaint in respect of an obviously defamatory and indefensible article.”
For several months, Daily Mail denied that their article was able to defame Rowling.
In December 2013, libel proceedings have been launched and the next month the writer accepted the allegations “were completely false and indefensible”, published an apology, and agreed to pay substantial damages which the writer was donating to charity.
Schilling stated: “In these circumstances, and this statement having been read out in court, the claimant now considers that she has been totally vindicated, her reputation has been restored and accordingly is pleased to bring these proceedings to a close.”
Referring to an earlier legal action, an announcement was issued on the author’s behalf, saying: “JK Rowling is happy with the judgment made in the court of appeal which allows her statement in open court to be read out in the present day.”
Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard
Actor Johnny Depp filed a defamation case against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, in Virginia in early 2019.
However what preceded the case? Depp and Heard’s relationship started more than a decade ago and finally devolved into what appears to have been a toxic marriage.
The couple breaks up in 2016, however, have continued to battle in court over an op-ed Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, by which she described surviving domestic violence without mentioning Johnny Depp by name.
Depp is suing for $50 million in damages and denies ever being physically violent with his ex-wife Heard. Heard is also countersuing Depp for $100 million and claims she was only ever violent with him in self-defense or in defense of her younger sister.
Because the case plays out, social media has turned into a frenzy, devouring sound bites, evidence, tabloid published and clips of the courtroom. Depp spent 4 days testifying.
The jury for the trial, which is being held in Fairfax County, Virginia, is anticipated to start deliberating Friday.
Brangelina vs. News of the World
The couple Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) filed a complaint after several articles were published in News Corp’s magazines stating that the actors were divorcing. One of the publications printed a front-page story about the topic and went so far as to allege that the actors had already visited divorce lawyers to decide how to separate their assets.
In 2010, the newspaper was sued for libel by actor Sienna Miller. Instead of retracting their articles, News of the World published a follow-up story, making up news as they went.
After a judge ruled in favor of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, News Corp. admitted that their stories were defamatory and agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money in damages and legal fees to one of Pitt’s and Jolie’s charities.
Roman Polanski vs. Vanity Fair
Filmmaker Roman Polanski won his libel suit against Vanity Fair magazine over an article that accused him of propositioning a woman while on the way to the 1969 funeral of his murdered wife, Sharon Tate.
The Academy Award-winning director was awarded $87,000 in damages and court costs. A jury of nine men and three women took 4 1/2 hours to reach a unanimous verdict at London’s High Court.
“It goes without saying that, whilst the whole episode is a sad one, I am obviously pleased with the jury’s verdict today,” stated Polanski, 71 years old.
Director Roman Polanski sued the publisher of Vanity Fair over a 2002 article that accused him of propositioning a woman while on the way to the funeral of actress Sharon Tate, who was killed by followers of Charles Manson in 1969.
Conde Nast is based in New York, but libel actions concerning the international media are often brought in British courts because U.S. courts are considered less friendly to claimants.
Conde Nast accepted that the alleged incident at Elaine’s restaurant in Manhattan did not happen before Tate’s funeral, but asserted that it occurred about two weeks later.
In 2003, Polish director Roman Polanski won an Oscar for his Holocaust drama “The Pianist.” However, he has lived in France since fleeing the United States in 1978 after being charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.
He was unwilling to come to Britain for fear of possible extradition and agreed to give testimony by video.
After the verdict, Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter stated: “outrageous that this story is considered defamatory, given the fact that Mr. Polanski cannot be here because he slept with a 13-year-old girl a quarter of a century ago.”
Sean Penn vs. Lee Daniels
“Empire” creator Lee Daniels says he’s sorry he referred to actor Sean Penn as a “wife-beater.”
As a part of the settlement comes the public apology of Penn’s $10 million defamation lawsuit against the filmmaker, with Daniels also donating all the funds to the leftie “Mystic River” star’s Haiti charity.
“I’m sorry that I’ve hurt you Sean, and I apologize and retract my reckless statements about you,” Daniels stated in a joint statement released.
The director Lee Daniels had claimed that Penn was a wife-beater in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
In response to the mea culpa, Penn stated, “I accept Lee’s heartfelt apology and respect the sincerity with which it was delivered.”
As a part of the settlement, Daniels additionally made an unspecified donation to Penn’s Haitian Relief Organization and praised the Hollywood star as a “brilliant actor” and “humanitarian.”
Daniels went on to say, “I, too, have been the subject of false attacks by others. My most essential role is as a father, and it is very important to me that my kids learn that it’s wrong to reference gossip as truth, as I did right here. That may be very damaging and hurtful.”
In the September 2015 Hollywood Reporter interview, Daniels mentioned his view that “Empire” star Terrence Howard, who has a record of violence against women, “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f–in’ demon.”
Only a week after the interview was published, Penn sued Daniels in the Manhattan Supreme Court, saying that while he has had “several brushes with the law,” he has by no means been arrested for or convicted of domestic violence.
Then, in December, Madonna submitted a sworn statement to the court denying rumors that Penn hit her with a baseball bat in 1987 once they have been married.
Daniels stated in his statement that “domestic violence is a really serious problem. My feedback has been cavalier; it was not my intention to diminish the severity of the problem, but rather to express a view relating to the disparate treatment of males of color in our national conversation.”
The settlement has not been submitted to the court, however, the deal was confirmed by a source close to the case.
Famous Tax Evasion Cases are Famous Reasons for Defamation
Everyone likes to save cash, especially on back taxes. It is not against the law to reduce tax charges or decrease business tax bill or personal income taxes by professional accounting methods. State and federal government tax codes provide for a lot of exceptions and deductions to reduce tax issues.
However, whenever you resort to deceptive or fraudulent ways to save and unpaid taxes, you run the chance of sizable penalties and even jail. Although only a tiny fraction of returns are audited every year, the penalties usually are not worth the risk. These well-known tax evasion cases show simply how high a price you possibly can pay for this crime.
Failing to file taxes or pay taxes can have critical consequences and tax troubles. There may be a nice line between legal tax returns avoidance methods and unlawful tax evasion. As you can see from the well-known examples, it is very important to understand what happens when you go too far. In case you have tax questions or received a notice from a tax agency, it is a good suggestion to contact an experienced tax legal professional to discuss your situation and find out about your choices moving ahead.
It is always prudent to think before you speak. If you are a lawyer or an individual engaged in a business relationship, accusations about another person to a third party could make that person sue you for defamation.
Although you might believe your statements to be true, defaming another person could result in a lawsuit.
When you make statements about a person to a third party, be sure they are true and that they could not be construed as accusations of criminal activity or the lack of integrity in a person’s profession.
Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Want to learn more about celebrity reputations? Check out our blog here.