New York’s highest appeals court delivered a significant victory to Kesha in her ongoing legal dispute with music producer Dr. Luke. The court’s ruling on Tuesday makes it more difficult for Dr. Luke to prove that Kesha defamed him when she accused him of rape in 2014.
Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, has long argued that Kesha’s allegations were false and defamatory, claiming that she made them as a tactic to secure a more favorable contract. However, the Court of Appeal ruled that Dr. Luke is legally recognized as a “public figure” by the court. As a result, he must now demonstrate that Kesha acted with “actual malice” when making her statements, a high legal standard that poses a considerable challenge.
The appeals court highlighted that by 2014, Dr. Luke was already a well-known figure in the music industry and had actively sought media attention to advance his career and business interests. To meet the “actual malice” requirement, Dr. Luke must prove at the upcoming trial in July that Kesha either knew her accusation was false or showed reckless disregard for the truth.
The court’s decision also acknowledged Kesha’s win under New York’s newly enacted “anti-SLAPP” law. This means that if Kesha successfully defends herself against the accusations, she can seek reimbursement of her legal expenses from Dr. Luke.
While the ruling was largely in favor of Kesha, there was a partial victory for Dr. Luke. The court rejected Kesha’s argument that many of the allegedly defamatory statements were protected by privileges, such as statements made before litigation. The court ruled that a jury might find some of the statements fair game, leaving room for potential contention.
In response to the ruling, Dr. Luke’s lawyer, Christine Lepera, emphasized the aspects that favored their position and expressed confidence in winning the defamation claims at trial. Lepera stated that the court agreed that the majority of Kesha’s statements are subject to the defamation claim, and Kesha will have to defend her long-standing press campaign against Dr. Luke during the trial.
The trial, which has been postponed several times pending this ruling, is now set to begin on July 19 after nearly eight years of legal battles between the two parties.
Kesha’s legal victory represents a significant development in her ongoing fight for justice and highlights the challenges faced by individuals seeking recourse against powerful figures in defamation cases. The outcome of the trial will have far-reaching implications for both Kesha and Dr. Luke, as it will determine the resolution of the defamation allegations and potentially impact the future of their careers.