We Asked a Lawyer About Ciara's Defamation Lawsuit Against Future
Will Future survive? Why $15 million? What does defamation even mean?
Photo via a now-deleted Instagram post
Future and Ciara’s coupling was supposed to be perfect, just like a fairy tale or a socialist society. It began in early 2013, as two Atlanta artists came together to create a beautiful song called “Body Party,” which was forever immortalized with a video that featured Trinidad James. They got engaged in October of 2013 on Ciara’s 28th birthday, and a few months later Ciara announced her pregnancy. Everything was going smoothly, but like the two aforementioned examples of perfection, this simply didn’t work. In August of 2014, just four months after the couple had a child together, Future and Ciara’s relationship was over. While the single life caused both members to reach positive new levels in their career, with Ciara releasing her solid R&B album Jackie while balancing motherhood and Future going on a historic run with a salvo of projects that raised him to heights he’d never experienced, it’s led the two down a messy personal path.
After Future made a number of comments to the press and through Twitter about how Ciara was using NFL player Russell Wilson and his baby Future as a publicity stunt, as well as questioning the mother’s parenting skills, Ciara hit her former lover with a $15 million defamation lawsuit. “Of course I wouldn’t want someone pushing my son,” Future told The Breakfast Club while talking about Russell Wilson’s involvement in his child’s life. “You don't even bring a man around your son. You know this dude for a few months and you're bringing him around your kid?” he continued. "Who does that? Nobody does that." Future also tweeted a number of his grievances about how difficult it was for him to see his child including, “This bitch got control problems ... I gotta go through lawyers to see baby future ... the fuckery for 15k a month."
So does Ciara have a case? To find out, we spoke to a lawyer to find out what exactly defamation is, why she's suing for $15 million, and what Future should do.
Noisey: So what is defamation exactly?
The definition of “defamation” is making a statement about another person publicly. Whether in print, TV, radio, on the internet—as long as it’s published to the public. The statement must be untrue, and it is something that will lower the reputation of the person it’s being said about in the eyes of others, resulting in damages to the person about which the statement is made.
He didn't say it directly, but he implied that she’s a bad mother. Is that something that’s covered under that definition?
It can be. Any statement that’s not true that could lower one's reputation and cause damages as a result could. So foreseeably if—let’s take it away from these two individuals for a moment—if two other individuals were in a horrible custody dispute and one went to the newspaper, gave an interview and for some reason called their former spouse a bad parent, a negligent parent, a parent who does not act in the best interest of their child, well that could potentially lead people to believe it. A reasonable person on the street might think that person is a bad parent and it could result in damages. If you look at most people, what are those damages? You lose a job, a business, you lose custody of your kid. Those are the kind of stakes that you’re talking about. A good example where it’s not defamation is if it’s true. For something like this nature, to be proven true, you’d be going through judicial proceedings and determining in a family court whether in fact somebody is a good parent or a bad parent.
The exact thing that he said was that she was using the son as a publicity stunt. Now is that provable?
It all comes down to what evidence would come out in the defamation proceedings. The reality is, it’s a hard one to prove. What is the damage to presumably her being called out as using a child as a publicity stunt? Could she lose her child? Well is there a custody trial ongoing between them? I don’t know. If there’s none, then unless she’s somehow putting her child in harm's way, then I don't know. Having the paparazzi come and take pictures of you, could that be putting your child in harm's way if you’re purposefully doing it? Potentially. I think the reality is that a lot of people—when a statement is made about them—whether they’re a member of the public sphere and they’re a celebrity or a famous person, or even a private person, an inclination is always to jump and say “I’m going to sue you for defamation.” Insulting somebody where there’s no damages and there's not a likelihood of someone believing the statement is true is not defamation
How does one determine a sum of $15 million for a lawsuit?
That’s really a determination made by an individual's lawyer, who had to presumably do a case law review of what damage rewards were in a particular sphere, so in this case, defamation. They would figure “okay, based on x, y and z factors, this sum seems reasonable.” Obviously, it’s a very large amount of money. Ciara would have to go and prove that she has suffered that level of damage to her reputation as a result of this statement. Can they do it? That is up to her lawyer to figure out.
Any advice for Future?
Just get a lawyer and seek independent legal advice.
What’s your favorite Future song?
I will admit that I am not familiar with Mr. Future’s music.
Slava Pastuk is the Editor of Noisey Canada. Follow him on Twitter.