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Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna have convinced a Los Angeles judge to toss many of the claims brought by her former friend who claims she defamed him on Instagram and publicly revealed his private information while denying that they had been in a romantic relationship.
Justin Jones in October 2017 sued Chyna for defamation and both Chyna and Kardashian for cyberbullying and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The year before, Jones says a photo of himself and Chyna kissing had been leaked to Radar Online and was making the rounds on the internet. He denied being anything more than friends with the model, but the photo spread and so did rumors that he was the father of her child.
According to his complaint, Jones alleges that Kardashian began threatening him with physical violence via text message because they thought he was the one who released the picture. Chyna then posted a denial on her Instagram account, explaining that Jones is gay and they took the photo to make his boyfriend jealous. She also posted screenshots of texts that included his phone number and a screenshot of an email that included his email address. Jones alleges that the posts were defamatory and that he was cyberbullied because they released his contact information, and says the experience was so demoralizing that it led to an unsuccessful suicide attempt.
Chyna and Kardashian each filed anti-SLAPP motions in response.
Chyna argues that the statements she posted on Instagram are true, and therefore can’t be defamatory, and separately that the reason for taking a photo is subjective and can’t be proven true or false. “Jones cannot show a probability that he will prevail on his defamation claim, because a statement that someone is gay or that a photo was taken to make a man’s boyfriend jealous is not defamatory as a matter of law,” writes her lawyer Lynne Ciani in a Sept. 18 filing. She also argues that Jones’ claims for cyberbullying and intentional infliction of emotional distress fail because her post wasn’t intended to put him “in reasonable fear for his safety” and he can’t prove that it “constitutes extreme and outrageous conduct that was intended to cause him emotional distress.”
Meanwhile, Kardashian’s legal team argues that the lawsuit is nothing more than a meritless cash grab and is largely based on actions taken by Chyna, not Kardashian: “Plaintiff’s conduct at the time of the incidents underlying the Complaint (particularly his statements that Kardashian’s alleged ‘threats’ in the Group Texts were ‘not even that serious’ and did not ‘intimidate or scare’ him); his admission that Chyna (and not Rob) authored and published the Instagram Posts; his repeated attempts to perpetuate the controversy by providing interviews and statements to the media; and the absurdity of his alleged ‘damages’ compel only one conclusion. Plaintiff is an opportunist who filed a meritless lawsuit as a shakedown attempt, seeking a payday from Kardashian, and the Court should grant Kardashian’s Anti-SLAPP Motion.”
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Draper adopted a tentative ruling, granting Kardashian’s motion with respect to every claim except intentional infliction of emotional distress. Draper found that the threatening text messages were not protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute, which brings an early end to frivolous claims arising from protected activity such as free speech. “True threats” aren’t covered. “Kardashian makes the argument that the texts were not real threats,” writes the judge. “The Court rejects this argument as Jones declared in his Opposition that the texts caused him to feel unsafe in public specifically as a result of the text messages, which indicates that Jones received them as threats.”
Draper granted Chyna’s motion as to the defamation claim, but allowed claims related to her posting of Jones’ private contact information to proceed. The judge agreed with the model that her posts regarding the reason for the photo and Jones’ sexual orientation are protected, as they are centered on a matter of public interest (the paternity of a celebrity’s child) and were made in a public forum (a famous person’s social media account). “However, the Court finds that Chyna’s publication of Jones’ personal email address and phone number, although on social media, is not a protected activity,” writes Draper. “Jones’ personal email address and phone number are not a matter of public interest, although matters surrounding Jones may be.”
Further, the judge found that Jones was unlikely to succeed on the merits of his defamation claim because he doesn’t dispute that he’s a public figure and he hasn’t shown Chyna made the statements with actual malice.
“The evidence in this case supports a conclusion that Chyna believed that the statements that she made on Instagram regarding Jones’ sexual orientation were true at the time, and that she believed that Jones’ sexual orientation was already known to the public,” writes Draper. “Chyna’s possible misconceptions about whether Jones’ sexual orientation was publicly known given the fact that several other person were aware of his sexual orientation, while regretful or even neglectful, does not amount to actual malice.”
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