The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The Complaint filed today in Minaj v. Green is short (4 pages) and readable, so I thought I'd pass along pretty much the whole thing (minus the paragraph numbering and a bit of less interesting detail):
This action is brought to vindicate the reputation of Plaintiff, a superstar artist who is known as Nicki Minaj. The Defendants herein have outrageously defamed Plaintiff by posting a video on their Twitter page in which Defendant Marley Green ("Green") who goes by the name of "Nosey Heaux," falsely and maliciously stated that Plaintiff is a "cokehead" who is "shoving all this cocaine up her nose." Further, evidencing a fundamental lack of decency, Green has also posted vile comments about Plaintiff's one year-old son. While these comments are not actionable, they nonetheless demonstrate why punitive damages should be awarded in this case.
In a different age, Green's lie would have been meaningless because she is the ultimate "nobody"—on information and belief, a person whose main accomplishments in life have been a string of criminal charges, bail jumping, and bad debts. But this is the age of social media, one in which a "nobody" can find an undeserved following through relentless self- promotion. Green is one of those "nobodies," as she posts content belonging to her wholly owned company, Defendant Nosey Heaux Live LLC ("NHLLLC"), on multiple social media platforms. One of those platforms is the "Nosey Heaux Live" Twitter page, which, inexplicably, has approximately 3,300 followers. Green therefore has the means to publish a lie knowing that it will metastasize as it is retweeted by her followers, and then further retweeted by the followers of her followers, and so on.
That is what has happened here. In just the day following Green's September 12, 2022 publication of her lie that Plaintiff is a "cokehead" on her Twitter page, almost 2,000 people had "liked" it. More importantly, more than 260 people had retweeted it, which led to a firestorm of social media attention which was undoubtedly caused by multiple levels of subsequent retweets. While social media is an extraordinarily effective vehicle for spreading lies, it does not confer a license to do so.
On information and belief, and as discovery will likely reveal, Green has been acting as a proxy for another performer who, mistakenly believing that she and Plaintiff are stars of equal stature, has repeatedly used other social media intermediaries in a hopeless effort to advance her career at Plaintiff's expense. However, the fact that Green was acting at the behest of another does not make her conduct less egregious or excuse her from the consequences of the damages she has caused Plaintiff to suffer….
For at least the past year, Defendants have used the various Nosey Heaux Live social media platforms in an effort to demean and insult Plaintiff—efforts which were of no concern to Plaintiff.
However, the situation changed on September 12, 2022, when Defendants posted a video on the Nosey Heaux Twitter page in which Green stated ("Green's Video Statement") that Plaintiff is "shoving all this cocaine, shoving in all this cocaine up her nose. Allegedly. Thank you. Allegedly. But we all know it's true. Fuck—listen, I can't even say allegedly with that 'cause I—we know it's true. I'm not saying allegedly on that. Nicki Minaj is a coke head." (Emphasis supplied).
Green's Video Statement was defamatory per se in that it (a) charged Plaintiff with a serious crime, and (b) tended to injure Plaintiff in her trade, business, or profession.
Green's Video Statement was false because Plaintiff has never used cocaine.
Green, on behalf of herself and NHLLLC, made the Green Video Statement with actual malice in that they either knew that it was false or knew that there was a high probability that it was false.
The Green Video Statement was not protected by any privilege.
The Green Video Statement constituted slander per se.
By reason thereof, Plaintiff has been damaged in an amount to be determined by the jury, but which is in no event less than $75,000.
In addition, because Defendants' conduct was so wilful, wanton and malicious, Plaintiff is entitled to recover punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the jury….
Compliments to plaintiff's lawyer Judd Burstein, for conciseness and clarity. (I of course can't speak to the factual merits of the case.)