After being targeted in a multi-million dollar jewelry robbery in Paris earlier this month, Kim Kardashian has filed a libel lawsuit against a New York-based website, claiming the site “published a series of articles in early October 2016 referring to her a liar and thief” in connection with the robbery. According to Kardashian’s lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a federal court in Manhattan, MediaTakeOut.com and its owner Fred Mwangaguhunga, "further victimized" her by publishing several erroneous articles on their website.
Kardashian alleges in her complaint that the defendants published an array of articles "in which they claimed, without any factual support whatsoever, that Kardashian faked the robbery, lied about the violent assault, and then filed a fraudulent claim with her insurance company to bilk her carrier out of millions of dollars. Defendants’ malicious publication of the articles, which paint the victim of a serious crime as a criminal herself, is libelous per se.”
Note: libel is form of defamation expressed in print that is injurious to a person's reputation, exposes a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or injures a person in his/her business or profession. As distinct from a regular libel claim, libel per se is a heightened claim, in which the defamatory claim (or claims) is considered to be so harmful on its face that the plaintiff need not prove special damages. Examples of libel per se are statements that: (i) relate to the person’s business or profession to the person’s detriment; (ii) falsely claim that the person committed a crime of moral turpitude; (iii) imputes unchastity on the person; or (iv) claim that the person suffers from a loathsome disease. Subsection (ii) "falsely claim that the person committed a crime of moral turpitude" is almost certainly at issue here.
Kardashian’s complaint goes on to state that the defendants published the articles, at least one of which was titled, "New Evidence Suggests . . . KimKardashian ‘STAGED’ The Robbery . . . Just Like RYAN LOCHTE!! (Here Are The FACTS) #KimRobbery," using "patently false and misleading headlines, stating, in no uncertain terms, that Kardashian ‘staged’ a robbery and committed a ‘federal crime’ by engaging in insurance fraud. The articles themselves are fraught with unsupported allegations and fail to identify or cite to any credible sources to back up the wild claims asserted therein. Defendants’ reckless and malicious publication of the articles was calculated to cause maximum harm to Kardashian.”
The lawsuit further states that the aforementioned article "purports to describe numerous alleged 'discrepancies' in Kardashian’s account of the robbery and claims that Kardashian staged the robbery in an effort to increase the ratings of her family’s television shows."
Additional articles, entitled, “French Authorities SUSPECT Kim Kardashian Of ‘LYING’. . . Suspect That She Is The One . . . Who ‘LET THE ROBBERS IN’!!!” and “Kim Kardashian Just Filed An INSURANCE CLAIM . . . For $5.6 MILLION!! (If She Faked The Robbery. . . She Just Committed a FEDERAL CRIME)" were also published by MediaTakeOut.com on the heels of the robbery. The complaint asserts that these "headlines and other statements in the articles about Kardashian are blatant defamatory lies. The articles falsely, outrageously, and perversely state and/or imply that Kardashian has lied about her traumatic robbery and committed insurance fraud and falsely make it appear as if Kardashian were culpable in criminal wrongdoing."
Finally, Kardashian's lawsuit states that the defendants lack any basis for their articles, as "The only potential sources with actual knowledge of what happened to Kardashian on October 3, 2016 are (i) Kardashian herself, (ii) the concierge at the apartment building, who also was assaulted at gunpoint and handcuffed, and (iii) the assailants themselves ... Because Defendants do not purport to have received their information from any of these sources, they have no legitimate basis for questioning the veracity of Kardashian’s ordeal accusing Kardashian of criminal conduct."
As a result, Kardashian is asking that the court order MediaTakeOut.com to immediately and permanently remove the articles from its site and to award her "general, special, punitive, and exemplary [monetary] damages ... in an amount to be determined at the time of trial."
UPDATE (10/24/16): Kardashian and Mwangaguhunga have settled the lawsuit out of court quickly, as Kardashian filed to voluntarily dismiss the suit on Monday. While the terms of the settlement are confidential, we do know that a retraction and correction were part of the deal.
On October 14, the website posted a lengthy statement online, and said: 'After speaking to sources, including some connected to the Kardashians, and getting further details on the sequence of events – we are now confident and without a doubt believe that Kim Kardashian was robbed as was reported to the Paris police. Anyone who is still questioning it, is wrong.'
* The case is Kimberly Kardashian West v. Mediatakeout.com LLC and Fred Mwangaguhunga, Case No. 16-CV-7929 (SDNY).