On June 30th, 2021, New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter’s sided with pop star Kesha on a critical issue in a lawsuit against her claiming that she defamed music producer, Dr. Luke, by accusing him of rape. Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, a producer who has worked with Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and many others, filed the case in 2014, claiming he had been defamed by Kesha’s “false and shocking” allegation that he once drugged and raped her.
Last year, the Supreme Court of the State of New York sided with Dr. Luke on a number of key issues (all of which are non-actionable). The court said Kesha’s statements were not mere statements of opinion and that certain texts from Kesha to fellow artist Lady Gaga had, in fact, been defamatory. The court also ruled Dr. Luke was not a public figure — meaning he didn’t need to prove malice against Kesha to win his case. The ruling was later upheld in April of 2021 by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Dr. Luke wasn’t the kind of “household name” who should be treated as a public figure.
However, not to be discouraged, after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision, the pop star went back to the Supreme Court of the State of New York to argue that New York’s new “anti-SLAPP” law, aimed at protecting free speech, applied to Dr. Luke’s defamation case. The November 2020 passage of New York’s new anti-SLAPP law — SLAPP being short for “strategic lawsuits against public participation” — gives judges greater latitude to toss out cases that make claims based upon speech. Since the earlier rulings made by the Supreme Court of the State of New York and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t consider the new anti-SLAPP law, Justice Schecter agreed to hear Kesha’s appeal to apply the anti-SLAPP statute.
Justice Schecter ultimately ruled that New York’s anti-SLAPP law could apply retroactively to the lawsuit. While there is no ruling yet, the anti-SLAPP motion being filed under New York’s new anti-SLAPP law will not only subject Dr. Luke to a heightened standard of evidence but could also subject him to a fee award if he loses to Kesha’s anti-SLAPP motion.
Kesha is represented by Leah Godesky, Anton Metlitsky, Yaira Dubin, and Daniel M. Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers.
Dr. Luke is represented by Jeffrey M. Movit, Christine Lepera, and David A. Steinberg of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP.
The case is Lukasz Gottwald et al. v. Kesha Rose Sebert et al., case number 653118/2014, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The Firm has extensive experience handling cases involving defamation law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.
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