Punitive Damages Added to Cardi B. Defamation Verdict
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Cardi B Scores $3.8 Million Defamation Verdict After Claiming She Became Suicidal Due to YouTuber’s False Allegations of Herpes, Cocaine Use

 
Cardi B. appears at a product launch on Dec. 4, 2021 in Miami Beach, Fla.

Cardi B appears at a product launch on Dec. 4, 2021 in Miami Beach, Fla.

A federal jury in Atlanta handed rapper Cardi B nearly $3 million in additional damages Tuesday, adding to Monday’s $1.25 million defamation verdict against a celebrity blogger who the jury agreed made multiple false statements about the rapper. The defendant, known as “Tasha K,” maintains she did nothing wrong and promises to appeal the massive verdict.

Cardi B, whose legal name is Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, filed a complaint against Latasha Transrina Kebe a.k.a. Tasha K, the YouTuber behind “unWinewithTashaK” for releasing over 23 videos which allegedly defamed Almánzar.

The complaint alleged that Kebe’s videos made scores of  “degrading and harassing statements” about Almánzar and that Kebe was “obsessed with slandering” the rapper. The alleged defamation included a statement made during Almánzar’s pregnancy that her unborn child may have intellectual disabilities, a statement that Almánzar was a prostitute and cocaine user, and that Almánzar had herpes and had suffered outbreaks on her mouth.

Almánzar claimed that she suffered embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional distress as a result of Kebe’s videos and social media posts.

Kebe denied Almánzar’s allegations and countersued by claiming Almánzar had actually defamed her.

“Cardi B began to publicly defame Ms. Kebe, referring to her as ‘this blogger lady'” said the counterclaim.  Kebe continued, accusing Almánzar of making up “false stories, in which she accused Kebe of “harass[ing] all of Cardi B’s friends” and “constantly stalk[ing] Cardi B.”

The case went to trial in a federal court in Georgia, and both Almánzar and Kebe testified. Almánzar testified she experienced suicidal feelings after Kebe posted the videos. When Kebe testified, she made several incriminating statements essentially admitting that she published falsehoods about the rapper — though she attempted to walk back that testimony afterward.

Jurors sided squarely with Almánzar, finding Kebe liable for defamation, invasion of privacy through portrayal in a false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury initially awarded $1.25 million in compensatory damages to Cardi B for pain and suffering, reputational harm, and medical costs.

Jurors assessed separate punitive damages on Tuesday, adding $1 million against Kebe individually and $500,000 against her studio, as well as $1,338,753.47 in legal fees. Kebe has vowed to appeal the verdict.

“My husband, Attorney’s [sic] & I fought really hard,” Kebe posted on social media following the initial verdict. “I want to thank them for their long hours and sleepless nights. Winos it’s only up from here. See y’all in a few days. Back to work.”

After the damages award was increased Tuesday, Kebe tweeted that she would be making her only statement about the case via video on Wednesday evening.

Almánzar’s lawsuit faced a major hurdle in that as a public figure, she was required to prove that the defendant blogger acted with “actual malice” — meaning that Kebe’s false statements were made intentionally or with reckless disregard to their veracity. Almánzar not only succeeded in proving this heightened mode of defamation, but also proved that Kebe’s falsehoods fell into a subclass of defamatory statements known as “defamation per se.”  These statements are considered so damaging due to their content that reputational damages are presumed without a plaintiff needing to specifically prove them. Generally, falsely stating that a person (regardless of fame) suffers from a sexually-transmitted infection (such as herpes) falls into the category of “defamation per se.”

Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.

[image via Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Whipshots]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos