Courtney Love has agreed to settle a Twitter defamation lawsuit by paying $430,000 to a clothing designer she tweeted was a “total scumbag, lying ripoff” and a prostitute.
The dispute began when Dawn Simorangkir, a designer, claimed Love owed her $4,000 for clothing.
Love responded with comments on Myspace and Simorangkir’s Web site as well as a Twitter rant, tweeting to her roughly 40,000 followers that the designer was an “asswipe nasty lying hosebag thief,” who lost custody of her own child, had a history of assault and battery, and used Love for her fame. “She has received a VAST amount of money from me over 40,000 dollars and I do not make people famous and get raped TOO!” read another Love tweet.
Simorangkir sued for defamation.
Love had argued that the tweets were an expression of her opinion but the designer said that Love had influence as an entertainer.
The case was scheduled for trial, but the parties settled for a total of $430,000.
Simorangkir’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, told The Hollywood Reporter that “the amount of the settlement says it all. Her reprehensible defamatory comments were completely false and $430,000 is quite a significant way to say I am sorry. One would hope that, given this disaster, restraint of pen, tongue and tweet would guide Ms. Love’s future conduct.”
Love’s attorney, James Janowitz, responded to the THR that because the $430,000 was an extended payout deal, “it’s a very modest settlement,” adding that the plaintiff had asked for “vastly more.” “They got out with an amount that left them bragging rights but nothing else,” he said.
Why it matters: The case presented an as-yet untried legal question: what constitutes defamation on Twitter? The question remains open, although one Illinois judge has ruled that a single tweet was nonactionable as a matter of law. In that case, a landlord brought suit after a tenant tweeted that her apartment was moldy. In another case, the creator of the Cookie Diet sued Kim Kardashian for libel and defamation over two tweets she made about the company. The cases all serve as a reminder that despite its 140-character limit, there is still room for potential liability on Twitter, and statements made via social media remain subject to legal action.