Reasons for judgement were published last week by the Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division One, allowing a defamation lawsuit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. to continue.
In the recent case (Harris v. Mayweather) the Plaintiff was a domestic violence victim. When asked about the incident while being interviewed by Katie Couric Mayweather responded that “Did I kick, stomp, and beat someone? No, that didn’t happen. I look in your face and say `No, that didn’t happen.’ Did I restrain a woman that was on drugs? Yes, I did. So if they say that’s domestic violence, then you know what? . . . I’m guilty of restraining a person.”
The Plaintiff sued alleging Mayweather’s remarks were defamatory. Mayweather’s legal team tried to have the lawsuit dismissed but only succeeded in removing a few more remote causes of action. In allowing the heart of the lawsuit to survive the Court of Appeals of California noted there was “clear and convincing” evidence that the Plaintiff may satisfy her burden at trial. The Appellate Court noted as follows:
As a preliminary matter, we hold that a reasonable trier of fact would conclude that the entirety of Mayweather’s statement declared or implied provably false assertions of fact. The stings of Mayweather’s statements — that he did not kick, stomp, and beat Harris and that Harris was under the influence of drugs and acting erratically and needed to be restrained — are more than mere opinions; they are factual assertions whose truth can be determined. As such, they are actionable.
With regard to Harris’s evidence, we hold that she presented clear and convincing evidence from which it could reasonably be inferred that Mayweather’s statement was not only false and defamatory, but also made with actual malice. First, she produced concrete evidence indicating that Mayweather did more than restrain her by twisting her arm. In addition to her declaration describing the alleged assault in detail, Harris produced the arrest report, which included both her contemporaneous description of the alleged assault, which described more than arm-twisting by Mayweather, and her son’s statement that Mayweather was “on” Harris, “hitting and kicking her.” (Italics added.) Moreover, Harris produced the emergency room report, which, in addition to noting the results of the toxicology screen, contained the attending doctor’s physical findings upon examination of Harris. The doctor, inter alia, found that Harris was in “moderate distress” and suffering from the following: redness, swelling, and “moderate tenderness” in multiple areas of her head; “mild tenderness” around her left jaw; and “mild tenderness” and bruising to her left forearm. The doctor’s clinical impression was as follows: “Physical assault. [¶] Multiple contusions to the head and face and left forearm.” Since this evidence is unequivocally at odds with the assertion that Mayweather was simply restraining a drug-addled Harris by only twisting her arm, it may reasonably be inferred that Mayweather acted with malice or reckless disregard of the truth during the Couric interview.
Second, Harris also produced unrebutted expert medical testimony that the prescription medications in her system at the time of the incident would not cause her to be the aggressor in the situation (i.e., the person who needed to be restrained).
Finally, Harris produced evidence that Mayweather’s statements were immediately interpreted by third parties in the media in a way that was injurious to her — that is, Mayweather’s portrayal of himself as the “victim of a lying, drugged-up ex-girlfriend,” namely her. Although neither Couric nor Mayweather identified Harris by name in the interview, the interview’s reference to Mayweather’s 2011 plea left little doubt that Mayweather’s statement concerned Harris. For example, both the New York Daily News and the Washington Post, which published articles on the interview the same day that it was posted to the internet, identified Harris by name as the person Mayweather was purportedly restraining.
In light of such evidence, we hold that Harris demonstrated that her defamation claim possessed the requisite “minimum level of legal sufficiency and triability.” (Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co., supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 438, fn. 5.) Accordingly, the trial court properly denied the motion as to the defamation claim.