March 09, 2012 12:04am PT by Eriq Gardner
Rapper The Game Could Owe Cops $15 Million in Documentary Lawsuit
A North Carolina appeals court has determined that the Game, the rapper and actor born as Jayceon Taylor, and Bungalo Records, owe $5 million and possibly more to five North Carolina police officers over a bonus feature on a documentary called Stop Snitchin' Stop Lyin.
At a 2010 trial, the defendants were ordered to pay $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages to the officers for manipulating video footage of an incident five years earlier at a North Carolina mall. The video was edited to make it appear as though the police officers brutally arrested the Game. In a recently published decision, the appeals court has mostly affirmed the verdict but remanded for further investigation on the issue of punitive damages.
The incident happened on October 28, 2005, at the Four Seasons Mall in Greensboro, North Carolina. That day, local police officers arrested the Game for criminal tresspass, communicating threats and disorderly conduct.
One of the Game's entourage recorded the events in question, and a heavily edited version of what transpired was included in a documentary DVD.
The following year, the police officers sued numerous individuals connected to the event, including the Game, his record label, Universal Home Video and YouTube for defamation, wrongful appropriation of likeness and unfair and deceptive practices. Universal and YouTube were later dismissed and one of the defendants settled, but a trial proceeded against the remaining defendants.
The Game never appeared for trial, and the judge entered summary judgment against him. The judge held a bench trial against the other defendants in September 2010, with witnesses testifying to the negative effects of the DVD. The plaintiffs were awarded millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages.
The rapper appealed on grounds that the judge shouldn't have held a summary judgment hearing on the day of the trial, the outcome there, and the way the judge relied on certain evidence to support a verdict and finding of damages.
North Carolina Appellate Judge Ann Marie Calabria has turned down the Game's appeal over the verdict itself, finding that he could have objected to the timing of the summary judgment hearing if he had showed up at the trial. She also deems the evidence to be sufficient to support a summary judgment motion on defamatory and appropriation grounds, but not for deceptive practices.
On the damages question, Judge Calabria says the trial court didn't abuse discretion by awarding each of the officers $1 million in compensatory damages over a DVD that is said to have raked in somewhere between $10 million to $40 million in profits. However, the trial court is deemed to be a little too quick to award $2 million to each officer in punitive damages.
The appeals court has remanded back for trial whether there's clear and convincing evidence that the Game acted with malice or some other aggravating factor, that would merit punitive damages. Judge Calabria also overrules the record label's objections against its own liability and the use of a disclaimer on the DVD.