Wednesday, March 29, 2017
C.A. Tosses Part of Ex-Fiancee’s Suit Against Mayweather
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A portion of ex-fiancée Shantel Jackson’s suit against former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is barred by the anti-SLAPP statute, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. Seven Monday ruled that Jackson cannot sue Mayweather for defamation or false light portrayal in connection with his postings on social media regarding the termination of her pregnancy, and that she cannot sue for public disclosure of private facts based on his public comments about her plastic surgery.
The ruling leaves intact claims for conversion, recovery of personal property, battery, assault, false imprisonment, and infliction of emotional distress and harassment.
Jackson’s complaint says she was an aspiring model and actress, 21 years of age and working as a hostess at an event in Atlanta when she met Mayweather in 2006, the year he won the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation world championships in the welterweight division.
Jackson said she moved to Las Vegas to live with Mayweather, and had an on-again, off-again and often-abusive relationship with him over the next several years. She became pregnant with twins in 2013 but terminated the pregnancy the following January.
Mayweather threatened and harassed her when she refused to move back to Las Vegas from Los Angeles during this period, she said. The two became embroiled in a public feud in April and May 2014 after Jackson posted on social media a photograph of herself and rap singer Nelly, after they attended a basketball game together.
Mayweather, she alleged, responded to the photo by threatening to post a nude photo of her if she did not take down the Nelly photo. She refused, she said, and also refused to reconcile with the boxer, who then posted online that the two had broken up because she had an abortion and he was “totally against killing babies.”
He also posted copies of her sonogram and medical report online, and discussed her cosmetic surgery on a radio program.
Mayweather’s anti-SLAPP motion asserted that nothing he said about Jackson was false, that she was a willing participant in the process of generating the publicity that she was now suing over, and that all of the complained-of statements were protected by the First Amendment.
Jackson responded that the real reason she and Mayweather were no longer together had nothing to do with the abortion, but was the result of her refusal to continue tolerating his abuse. She also said she considered the details of her pregnancy and its termination, and of her surgery, to be private, and that Mayweather was aware of her feelings about that.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bruguera denied the motion, saying Jackson showed a sufficient likelihood of prevailing on all of her claims.
But Presiding Justice Dennis Perluss, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said Mayweather had a First Amendment right to comment on his personal relationships, and in particular to express his opinion about Jackson’s abortion. And because both of them were “high profile individuals who were subject to extensive media scrutiny,” the “celebrity gossip” surrounding their relationship was a subject of public interest under the anti-SLAPP statute.
He cited Hall v. Time Warner, Inc. (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1337, which held that an invasion-of-privacy suit by Marlon Brando’s former housekeeper, who alleged that the producers of a television program had trespassed on her property and deceived her into talking about Brando and his will in which she was named as a beneficiary, was a SLAPP.
This district’s Div. Three said Brando’s fame, and the fact that he named his housekeeper as a beneficiary, were subjects of public discussion, of the type the statute was intended to protect.
“Mayweather, like Brando, is someone whose professional accomplishments and private life have generated widespread public interest. A world champion boxer in five different weight divisions, he was at one time listed as the highest paid athlete in the world. In April 2013, while the events at issue in Jackson’s complaint were occurring, Mayweather was the subject of a one-hour primetime network documentary and appeared frequently as a guest on television and radio programs.”
He was also heavily followed in social media, Perluss noted. And unlike the plaintiff in Hall, “Jackson willingly participated in publication of information about her own life and her relationship with Mayweather that others—that is, those who did not aspire to a career in modeling and the entertainment industry—might well consider private.”
Attorneys on appeal were Rick Edwards for Mayweather and Michael Maroko, Marcus Spiegel, and John S. West of Allred Maroko & Goldberg for Jackson.
The case is Jackson v. Mayweather, B266466.
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