Lawsuit Against Rappers for Attack by Their Employees in Sneaker Store

The defendants are "Stunna 4 Vegas" and "Dababy"-run company Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC.


In Thompson v. Caldwell (S.D.N.Y.), filed Saturday, Courtney Thompson is claiming that Stunna's (Khalick Antonio Caldwell's) and Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment's employees—Michael Awute and an unknown John Doe—beat up Thompson at Flight Club, a Manhattan sneaker store. Thompson is claiming he was hit in the face and kicked in the head, and is suing for at least $400,000 plus punitive damages.

Now if I beat you up in a sneaker store (not that I would!), you couldn't get a recovery against UCLA (or against my dean), unless I was somehow on the job. So what is the plaintiff's theory?

19. Defendant Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC is a music company that promotes itself as violent and murderous group.

20. Both the principals and agents of Defendant Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC, including Defendant Caldwell, frequently encourage violence by their employees and agents, through their music and actions.

21. The principals and agents of Defendant Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC, including Defendant Caldwell, regularly boast publicly about paying others to commit acts of violence on their behalf.

22. At all relevant times, Defendants Awute and Doe were acting as employees and agents of Defendants Caldwell and Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC. Their acts of violence toward Plaintiff were instigated, condoned, and/or authorized by Defendants Caldwell and Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC.

Time will tell whether this claim is going anywhere (and I should stress that I can't speak to the factual allegations, which are just part of the plaintiff's Complaint, not of any court finding). But I'm skeptical, unless there are some specific facts—beyond just loose claims of "encourag[ing] violence" or even of public boasts with regard to violence by others—that show that Awute and Doe did indeed attack Caldwell as a part of their jobs.

Topically related, though not necessarily legally relevant: DaBaby Fires Warning Shot to Hecklers After Fan Beatdown in Mall; Da Baby Posts Video of Him Beating Up Rival Rapper; DaBaby Sued; DaBaby's Alleged Assault Victim Says He Beat Up Stunna 4 Vegas.

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  1. I suspect there may be enough smoke here to entitle plaintiffs to discovery to see if there is any fire.

    Plaintiffs are alleging that defendants are actually running a gang and mean what they say, not merely using gang symbolism and rhetoric as hyperbolic marketing fluff. That sounds like a coherent enough allegation to survive dismissal. It of course remains to be seen if the plaintiffs can prove it.

    1. I tend to agree; On the face of it, there does seem to be a basis for proceeding, though they’d have to prove a lot to prevail.

  2. It’s disgusting and sad when people act like this.

  3. Point 17 appears to be a legal conclusion, stated as a fact. Isn’t this frowned upon in pleadings?

      1. Legal conclusions in pleadings are commonplace and not frowned upon per se, but are also not legally sufficient in federal court to state a cause of action.

        (Weirdly, Prof. Volokh’s numbering of those allegations above does not match the numbering in the complaint.)

        1. That caught me too, since the Paragraph 17 in the linked document is a statement of fact.

          When you’re answering a legal conclusion paragraph, what do you say in federal court? Are you in the “no need to respond” camp or do you attempt to deny, or what?

          1. “Paragraph 493 states a legal conclusion to which no response is required. To the extent a response is required, defendant denies the allegations in paragraph 493.”

            1. Which is why nobody ever bothers reading an Answer. By the time the lawyers get to it, it says nothing.

              (No less than Michael Mukasey, then Chief Judge of the SDNY, said that to the parties in a civil case I was involved in. “Why are you so concerned about them filing an Answer? No one ever reads it anyway.)

              1. Yeah. I love when clients breathlessly ask, “Did they file an Answer yet? What does it say?” And of course I say, “Dude. They denied everything, including their own name.” And then the client gets indignant, and I have to explain to them that this is routine and nobody cares what an Answer says.

                (My colleague has a standard response when defense attorneys call up and ask for an extra month to file their answer: “Come on.
                How long does it take you to type, “Denied, denied, denied?”)

              2. Wouldn’t an extensive Answer to the allegations in a Complaint be a clue to the defense strategy? Analogous, showing your whole and in poker before raising the ante?

            2. I guess that makes sense, so long as the denial is unrelated to the fact that it’s a legal conclusion (2012 WL 395707).

        2. Sorry, fixed the paragraph numbering.

          1. Now they’re all over 18.

    1. Not clear to me this is a pure legal conclusion. That the two persons beat him up in the store is certainly a factual allegation. Were they doing that as part of their job, or just did it on a lark? That seems to me to implicate what they were thinking, whether anyone instructed them to act that way, and what the general expectations of their job are. (Q: Were they ever asked to assault someone by their boss?)

      Given that this is notice pleading, I think that federal courts would generally allow it. At least at the pleading stage.

  4. “16. The principals and agents of Defendant Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment, LLC, including Defendant Caldwell, regularly boast publicly about paying others to commit acts of violence on their behalf.”

    This sounds like an allegation the court may wish to investigate further.

  5. I read the complaint; it’s going to get tossed as against the company and Caldwell if their lawyers are competent. The allegations about their involvement/responsibility are purely conclusory.

  6. It seems a pretty steep hill to climb, unless the plaintiff can show this was a business strategy of the company to, for example, bolster their reputation and credibility with a segment of their public.

    It also strikes me as eerily similar to various proposals to penalize “white nationalists” for being “white nationalists” with no other showing of at least a plan to break the law.

  7. I mean, if “this company pays people commit assault” is true, then suing the company isn’t that strange.

    The only question as far as I can see is if the claim of violence-for-pay is true.

  8. It’s not as if they said:

    I say it’s time to do some shit
    So let’s go over to the store at 123 Main Street
    at 10:35 Central time
    And commit vandalism, shoplifting and other crimes
    For everyone who obeys
    I’ll give $100 each, see?

    1. I may be wrong, but it may be a little more subtle that that. Something like, “We don’t take no shit from nobody. If somebody gets in your face or disrespects you, thump ’em”.

    2. And when someone is walking around saying “this a real nice place you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it, eh?” is just making idle chatter about the hassles of dealing with insurance claims.

    3. Purely a hypothetical – I don’t know any more about the details of the *real* case than most people.

  9. It’s sad to see my employees raging
    But they were not acting as my agents
    Property was damaged, things were thrown
    But the perps were off on a frolic of their own
    I admit the bad stuff that met your eyes
    But none of it was authorized

    1. No, your legal position is very precarious
      Your liability is very vicarious
      Before my employee met up with your crew
      He had a fine face and a nice head, too
      Here is the church, and here is the steeple
      Where you should have learned to control your people
      But judgment day for you is coming nigh
      The damages, like you, will be high

      1. Oh, stop preaching at me from your pulpit
        You’re blaming everyone except the culprit
        Your maneuvering is obvious, I’m going to call it
        You don’t want justice, you just want my wallet

        1. Your wallet paid the people who beat up my employee
          Your disavowal of responsibility is very annoying
          This lawsuit will test your mettle
          I’ll beat you badly, unless you settle

          1. I was very impressed until this last; “Employee” and “annoying” don’t rhyme.

            1. Stretch the pronunciation of “annoy-ing” it might slip by.

              It would be something if the case was handled in court like a rap face-off competition.

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