This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/17/2021 at 20:56:12 (UTC).

JUSTIN C JONES VS ROBERT KARDASHIAN ET AL

Case Summary

On 10/02/2017 JUSTIN C JONES filed a Personal Injury - Assault/Battery/Defamation lawsuit against ROBERT KARDASHIAN. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****8014

  • Filing Date:

    10/02/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Assault/Battery/Defamation

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

 

Party Details

Appellant and Plaintiff

JONES JUSTIN C. AKA J. C. JONES AKA PILOT JONES

Defendants and Respondents

KARDASHIAN ROBERT

WHITE ANGELA RENEE AKA BLAC CHYNA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

MOBLEY FELICIA ANN

Defendant Attorneys

CIANI LYNNE MARIE

SINGER MARTIN DORI

 

Court Documents

Statement of Damages (Personal Injury or Wrongful Death)

6/14/2019: Statement of Damages (Personal Injury or Wrongful Death)

Proof of Personal Service

7/3/2019: Proof of Personal Service

Request for Judicial Notice

7/12/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARAION OF LYNN CIANI

7/12/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARAION OF LYNN CIANI

Declaration - DECLARATION NICOLE A. OLIPHANT IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI- SLAPP MOTION)

7/12/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION NICOLE A. OLIPHANT IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI- SLAPP MOTION)

Declaration - DECLARATION OF ANGELA WHITE IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI-SLAPP MOTION)

7/12/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ANGELA WHITE IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI-SLAPP MOTION)

Declaration - DECLARATION LYNNE M. CIANI IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI-SLAPP MOTION)

7/12/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION LYNNE M. CIANI IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI-SLAPP MOTION)

Notice of Motion - NOTICE OF MOTION AND SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI- SLAPP MOTION)

7/12/2019: Notice of Motion - NOTICE OF MOTION AND SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO C.C.P. 425.16 (AKA ANTI- SLAPP MOTION)

Case Management Statement

7/15/2019: Case Management Statement

Proof of Personal Service

7/15/2019: Proof of Personal Service

Case Management Statement

7/19/2019: Case Management Statement

Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

7/22/2019: Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: ENTRY OF ...)

7/23/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: ENTRY OF ...)

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

7/23/2019: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Notice of Lodging - NOTICE OF LODGING OF LODGING EXHIBIT G TO MELISSA LERNER DECLARATION

8/7/2019: Notice of Lodging - NOTICE OF LODGING OF LODGING EXHIBIT G TO MELISSA LERNER DECLARATION

Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF ROBERT KARDASHIAN IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE

8/7/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF ROBERT KARDASHIAN IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE

Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF MELISSA Y. LERNER IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE

8/7/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF MELISSA Y. LERNER IN SUPPORT OF SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE

Declaration - DECLARATION OF MELISSA Y. LERNER (VOLUME 1 - EXHIBITS A-D)

8/8/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION OF MELISSA Y. LERNER (VOLUME 1 - EXHIBITS A-D)

82 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 07/12/2022
  • Hearing07/12/2022 at 09:30 AM in Department 78 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Jury Trial

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  • 06/27/2022
  • Hearing06/27/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department 78 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Final Status Conference

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  • 09/21/2021
  • Hearing09/21/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 78 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

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  • 07/27/2021
  • Hearing07/27/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 78 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses

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  • 06/15/2021
  • Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 78; Jury Trial (, 5-7 day estimate,) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 06/07/2021
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 78; Hearing on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings - Not Held - Rescheduled by Party

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  • 06/01/2021
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 78; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 05/13/2021
  • DocketMotion for Judgment on the Pleadings; Filed by Angela Renee White (Defendant)

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  • 04/20/2021
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 78; Hearing on Ex Parte Application ( TO CONTINUE TRIAL DATE AND ALL RELATED DEADLINES, INCLUDING DISCOVERY) - Held

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  • 04/20/2021
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Ex Parte Application TO CONTINUE TRIAL DATE AND A...)); Filed by Clerk

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127 More Docket Entries
  • 01/30/2018
  • DocketMinute order entered: 2018-01-30 00:00:00; Filed by Clerk

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  • 01/18/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 01/18/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 01/18/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons

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  • 01/18/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons

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  • 10/23/2017
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 10/23/2017
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 10/02/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Justin C. Jones (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/02/2017
  • DocketCOMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES: 1. DEFAMATION; ETC

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  • 10/02/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

b"

Case Number: ****8014 Hearing Date: September 21, 2021 Dept: 78

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

JUSTIN C JONES;

Plaintiff,

vs.

ROBERT KARDASHIAN, et al.;

Defendants.

Case No.:

****8014

Hearing Date:

September 21, 2021

[TENTATIVE] RULING RE: DEFENDANT ANGELA WHITE’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS ON PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT

After considering the evidence and arguments presented in the record, Defendant Angela White’s Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings On Plaintiff’s Complaint is DENIED.

Factual Background

This is an action for Defamation, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, Cyberbullying in Violation of Penal Code ;653.2, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

The complaint (“Complaint”) alleges that plaintiff Justin C. Jones (“Plaintiff” and/or “Jones”) and defendant Angela Renee White, aka Blac Chyna (“Defendant” and/or “Chyna”), took several pictures together in which they posed kissing in 2015. (Complaint at ¶ 7.) The Complaint further alleges that the latter photo was released to an online entertainment publication (Complaint at ¶ 8) and that as a result of allegations made by certain publications that Plaintiff was the father of Chyna’s unborn child, Defendants Chyna and Robert Kardashian (“Kardashian”) made statements on Instagram alleging that Plaintiff was gay (Complaint at ¶ 19), in an effort to disparage him. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Chyna and Kardashian (collectively, the “Defendants”) also released Plaintiff’s private email address and cell phone number to the public, while encouraging the public to contact Plaintiff as part of the parties’ heated altercation. (Complaint at ¶ 23). As a result of the latter public release of private information/facts, Plaintiff alleges that he received insulting and threatening messages from the public. (Id.) Consequently, Plaintiff made an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide. (Complaint at ¶ 26.)

procedural history

Jones filed the Complaint on October 2, 2017, alleging four causes of action for:

  1. Defamation (Against Chyna only),

  2. Public Disclosure of Private Facts,

  3. Cyberbullying in Violation of Penal Code ; 653.2,

  4. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”).

On September 25, 2019, this Court granted in part each of the Special Motions to Strike filed by Chyna and Kardashian against the Complaint. The Court granted Chyna’s Motion to Strike as to the first cause of action, and granted her Motion to Strike as to the second, third, and fourth causes of action except that the Motion was denied to the extent they were based on the social media statements disclosing Jones’ private contact information. The Court granted Kardashian’s Motion to Strike as to the second and third causes of action, and granted as to the fourth cause of action except to the extent it was based on the group text messages.

On February 27, 2020, this Court sustained Chyna’s Demurrer as to the Complaint’s third cause of action for cyberbullying. However, the Court overruled Chyna’s Demurrer as to the Complaint’s second cause of action for public disclosure of private facts, and fourth cause of action for IIED.

Subsequently, on May 13, 2021, Defendant Chyna filed the pending Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings On Plaintiff’s Complaint. Chyna then filed an Amended Notice of Motion for the pending motion on August 26, 2021.

Plaintiff filed his opposition papers to the pending motion on September 8, 2021.

On September 14, 2021, Defendant Chyna filed her reply papers for the pending motion.

Discussion

  1. JUDICAL NOTICE

    Defendant White has attached exhibits to the Memorandum of Points and Authorities for the pending motion. However, this is not the appropriate manner to request that a court take judicial notice of certain documents, especially as where here, the motion centers on the sufficiency of the operative pleading, not the sufficiency of proof.

    Requests for judicial notice must be made in a separate document. (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 3.1113(l).)

    In any case, documents are only judicially noticeable to show their existence and what orders were made. The truth of the facts and findings within the documents are not judicially noticeable. (Lockley v. Law Office of Cantrell, Green, Pekich, Cruz & McCort (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 875, 885.)

    Thus, the Court does not consider the exhibits attached to Defendant White’s pending motion.

    However, the Court takes judicial notice, on its own motion, of the Complaint. (Evid. Code ; 452(d).)

  2. MOTION FOR JUDGEMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

  1. The Law

A defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings may be made after the time to demur has expired and an answer has been filed. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 438(f).) A motion by a defendant may be made on the grounds that (1) the court “lacks jurisdiction of the subject of one or more of the causes of action alleged” or (2) the complaint or cross-complaint “does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against that defendant.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 438(c).)

A motion for judgment on the pleadings challenges the legal sufficiency of a pleading’s allegations, not their veracity. (Donabedian v. Mercury Ins. Co. (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 968, 994.) Except as provided by statute, the rules governing demurrers apply. (See Cloud v. Northrop Grumman Corp. (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 995, 999.) Thus, a motion for judgment on the pleadings is the functional equivalent of a general demurrer. (Lance Camper Mfg. Corp. v. Republic Indemnity Co. of Am. (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 194, 198.)

In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, courts consider whether properly pled factual allegations—assumed to be true and liberally construed—are sufficient to constitute a cause of action. (Stone Street Capital, LLC v. Cal. State Lottery Com’n (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 109, 116.)

Any defects must either appear on the face of the pleading, or else be taken by judicial notice. (Bezirdjian v. O'Reilly (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 316, 321-22.) The parties’ ability to prove their respective claims is of no concern. (Cloud, supra, 67 Cal.App.4th at 999.) Though the Court must accept the allegations of the complaint and answer as true (Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Lyons (2000) 24 Cal.4th 468, 515), it will not do so for “conclusions of law or fact, opinions, speculation, or allegations contrary to law or [judicially noticed] facts…” (Stevenson Real Estate Servs., Inc. v. CB Richard Ellis Real Estate Servs., Inc. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 1215, 1219–20.)

    1. Meet and Confer Requirement

Before filing a motion to strike, the moving party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who has filed the pleading subject to the motion for judgment on the pleadings and file a declaration detailing their meet and confer efforts. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 439(a).)

Here, the parties made a good faith effort to meet and confer prior to filing the instant motion.

  1. Second COA for Public Disclosure of Private Facts

Defendant Chyna moves the Court to issue an order granting judgment on the pleadings in her favor against Plaintiff, on the grounds that the Complaint does not sufficiently state facts to constitute the Complaint’s second cause of action against the Defendant. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 438(c)(1)(B)(ii).)

To establish tort liability for publication of private facts, the plaintiff must plead and prove (1) public disclosure (2) of a private fact (3) that would be offensive and objectionable to the reasonable person and (4) is not of legitimate public concern. (Taus v. Loftus (2007) 40 Cal.4th 683, 717; Shulman v. Group W Productions, Inc. (1998) 18 Cal.4th 200, 214.)

With respect to the fourth element, “newsworthiness” is a complete bar to liability for publication of truthful information. (Jackson v. Mayweather (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 1240, 1256, as modified (Apr. 19, 2017), review denied (June 28, 2017).) Newsworthiness can be determined by the court by balancing the public’s right to know against the plaintiff’s privacy interest at the point where “the material revealed ceases to have any substantial connection to the subject matter of the newsworthy report.” (Id. at 1256)

Here, the Complaint sufficiently state facts to constitute the second cause of action for public disclosure of private information. According to the Complaint, Defendants released Plaintiff’s private cell phone number and email address to the public as part of a heated altercation between the parties. (Complaint at ¶ 21.) The Complaint alleges that in addition to releasing the latter private information, Defendants also encouraged the public to contact Plaintiff at said private contact information. (Id.) The court must assume the truth of all factual allegations in the complaint, along with matters subject to judicial notice.” (See Wise v. Pacific Gas and Elec. Co. (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 725, 738.) Thus, the allegations noted above sufficiently state a cause of action for public disclosure of private facts.

Next, Chyna and Plaintiff debate whether the releasing of Plaintiff’s email address and phone number on social medica was “offensive” under the law. The standard for offensiveness in the context of public disclosure of private facts considers “the degree of intrusion, the context, conduct and circumstances surrounding the intrusion as well as the intruder’s motives and objectives, the setting into which he intrudes, and the expectations of those whose privacy is invaded.” (Miller v . National Broadcasting Co. (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 1463, 1483–1484.)

Defendant Chyna argues that the Court cannot consider the full context in which the Defendants are alleged to have publicly disclosed Plaintiff’s private information. The Defendant does not cite to any legal authority for her contention. Thus, the Court is not persuaded and, instead, is bound by precedents which directs us to consider the totality of the circumstances under which a public disclosure of private facts occurred. (Miller, supra, 187 Cal.App.3d at 1483–1484.)

Here, the Court finds that, after considering all of the alleged circumstances, Defendants alleged public disclosure of Plaintiff’s private information could be considered offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff and Chyna took several pictures together, including a photo in which they posed kissing in 2015. (Complaint at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff further alleges that this photo was released to an online entertainment publication (Complaint at ¶ 8) and that as a result of allegations made by certain publications that Plaintiff was the father of Chyna’s unborn child, Chyna made statements on Instagram alleging that Plaintiff was gay (Complaint at ¶ 19) and also released Plaintiff’s private email address and cell phone number to the public (Complaint at ¶¶ 21, 23).

In addition, the Complaint alleges that as a result of the Defendants’ conduct noted above, Plaintiff received various “scurrilous, disgusting, and threatening messages from unidentified members of the public,” including threats on his life, e.g., “[a]nd today will be the last day of you walking bitch.” (Complaint, ¶ 23.)

Contents of publication or broadcast are protected as newsworthy only if they have some substantial relevance to matter of legitimate public interest. (Shulman, supra, 18 Cal.4th at 224.) The Court finds that the balance of interests weighs in favor of protecting Plaintiff’s private information because the publication of an individual’s private contact information when released as a measure of retaliation by an acquaintance, in the context of a personal dispute, does not have substantial relevance to matters of legitimate public interest such that it could be called newsworthy.

In summary, the Court finds that the Complaint sufficiently alleges a claim for public disclosure of private facts because Plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his private contact information. The latter private contact information was allegedly disclosed to the public within the context of a heated altercation, thereby leading to a reasonable inference of a vindictive motive (i.e., going to offensiveness). (Complaint at ¶¶ 18–23.) When Defendants publicly released the latter information, the Complaint alleges they encouraged unidentified members of the public to contact Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23.) This alleged harassment continued even after Plaintiff fled his home in Los Angeles, CA, for Louisiana. (Id. at ¶ 22.) As expected by Defendants, unidentified members of the public are alleged to have continually harassed the Plaintiff at his private cellphone number and email address, despite the fact that he moved to Louisiana. (Id. at 23.) The Court finds that a reasonable person could find the Defendants’ alleged conduct was offensive and objectionable under the circumstances and the issue is therefore one for the jury to decide.

Accordingly, the Court finds that the Complaint sufficiently states facts to constitute the second cause of action for public disclosure of private facts. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 438(c)(1)(B)(ii).)

  1. Fourth COA for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”)

Defendant Chyna moves the Court to issue an order granting judgment on the pleadings in her favor against Plaintiff, on the grounds that the Complaint does not sufficiently state facts to constitute the Complaint’s fourth causes of action against the Defendant. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 438(c)(1)(B)(ii).)

The elements of the tort of IIED are: “ ‘(1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress; (2) the plaintiff's suffering severe or extreme emotional distress; and (3) actual and proximate causation of the emotional distress by the defendant's outrageous conduct....’ Conduct to be outrageous must be so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community.” (Davidson v. City of Westminster (1982) 32 Cal.3d 197, 209.) The defendant must have engaged in “conduct intended to inflict injury or engaged in with the realization that injury will result.” (Id. at p. 210.)

Here, the Court finds that the Complaint sufficiently states facts to constitute the fourth cause of action for IIED. To reiterate the allegations noted above, the Complaint alleges that Defendants publicly released Plaintiff’s private cell phone number and email address, while also encouraging the public to contact him within the context of heated, personal, altercation. (Complaint at ¶¶ 21, 23.) Chyna is a celebrity persona with many social media followers. Hence, publicizing another person’s private contact information with directions to contact that person is substantially likely to cause distress to that other person under the circumstances. Also, the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered such severe emotional distress following violent threats to his life, which ultimately led to unsuccessfully attempt to commit suicide. (Id. at ¶¶ 23, 26.)

The Complaint sufficiently states facts to from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant Chyna intended to inflict injury, etc., to Plaintiff, not only because she knowingly directed the public to contact Plaintiff, but also because her alleged conduct is juxtaposed alongside the parties’ heated altercation, which could support a reasonable inference of that she engaged in the alleged conduct with the realization that injury would result. (Complaint at ¶¶ 18–26.) Consequently, the Plaintiff is entitled to have a jury decide whether the alleged conduct is sufficiently outrageous due to the high number of social media followers, amounting to power over Plaintiff, who would have unauthorized access to Plaintiff’s private contact information.

Thus, the Court finds that the Complaint sufficiently states facts to constitute the fourth cause of action for IIED. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 438(c)(1)(B)(ii).)

Accordingly, Defendant Angela White’s Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings On Plaintiff’s Complaint is DENIED.

Plaintiff _ to give notice.

DATED: September 21, 2021

________________________________

Hon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court

"


Case Number: ****8014    Hearing Date: February 04, 2020    Dept: 78

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

JUSTIN C. JONES,

Plaintiffs,

v.

ROBERT KARDASHIAN, et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.: ****8014

Hearing Date: February 4, 2020

[TENTATIVE] RULING RE:

DEFENDANT ROBERT KARDASHIAN’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS

Defendant Robert Kardashian’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Costs is CONTINUED. Kardashian to file with the Court supplemental documentation regarding billing records and comparable billing rates.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This is an action for Defamation, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, Cyberbullying in Violation of Penal Code ;653.2, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. The Complaint alleges as follows:

Plaintiff Justin Jones (“Jones”) was friends with Defendant Angela Renee White aka Blac Chyna (“Chyna”), a public personality. (Complaint ¶ 6.)There exists a picture of Jones and Chyna kissing one another on the lips. (Complaint ¶ 7.) In October 2016, this kissing photo was released to an online entertainment publication. (Complaint ¶ 8.) Other sites released the photo with false headlines indicating that Jones and Chyna were in a sexual relationship. (Complaint ¶ 15.) Although Jones did not release the photo, Chyna and Defendant Robert Kardashian (“Kardashian”) believed he did, and so conspired to create a campaign of cyberbullying against Jones by sending threatening texts and releasing Jones’s private phone number and email address to the public. (Complaint ¶¶ 18, 21.) Chyna also released private information about Jones’s sexual orientation. (Complaint ¶ 19.) As a result of the release of Jones’s contact information, he received insulting and threatening messages from the public. (Complaint ¶ 23.) Jones eventually attempted suicide, though he was unsuccessful. (Complaint ¶ 26.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Jones filed the Complaint on October 2, 2017, alleging four causes of action:

  1. Defamation (Against Chyna only)

  2. Public Disclosure of Private Facts

  3. Cyberbullying in Violation of Penal Code ; 653.2

  4. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

On September 25, 2019, this Court granted in part each of the Special Motions to Strike filed by Chyna and Kardashian against the Complaint. The Court granted Chyna’s Motion to Strike as to the First Cause of Action, and granted the motion as to the Second, Third, and Fourth Causes of Action except that the Motion was denied to the extent the causes of action were based on the social media statements disclosing Jones’ private contact information. The Court granted Kardashian’s Motion to Strike as to the Second and Third Causes of Action, and granted as to the Fourth Cause of Action except to the extent it was based on the group text messages.

Kardashian filed the instant Motion for Attorneys’ Fees on October 23, 2019.

Jones filed an Opposition on January 22, 2020.

Kardashian filed a Reply on January 28, 2020.

DISCUSSION

  1. MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES

Code Civ. Proc. section 425.16, subd. (c)(1) states that “a prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney's fees and costs.” “The party prevailing on a special motion to strike may seek an attorney fee award through three different avenues: simultaneously with litigating the special motion to strike; by a subsequent noticed motion, . . . or as part of a cost memorandum.” (Carpenter v. Jack In The Box Corp. (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 454, 461.)

“It is well established that the determination of what constitutes reasonable attorney fees is committed to the discretion of the trial court, whose decision cannot be reversed in the absence of an abuse of discretion.” (Melnyk v. Robledo (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 618, 623.) In exercising its discretion, the court should consider a number of factors, including the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required in handling the matter, the attention given, the success or failure, and the resulting judgment. (See id.)

In determining the proper amount of fees to award, courts use the lodestar method. The lodestar figure is calculated by multiplying the total number of reasonable hours expended by the reasonable hourly rate. “Fundamental to its determination . . . [is] a careful compilation of the time spent and reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney . . . in the presentation of the case.” (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 48 (Serrano III).) A reasonable hourly rate must reflect the skill and experience of the attorney. (Id. at p. 49.) “Prevailing parties are compensated for hours reasonably spent on fee-related issues. A fee request that appears unreasonably inflated is a special circumstance permitting the trial court to reduce the award or deny one altogether.” (Serrano v. Unruh (1982) 32 Cal.3d 621, 635 (Serrano IV).) The Court in Serrano IV also stated that fees associated with preparing the motion to recover attorneys’ fees are recoverable. (See id. at p. 624.)

The court is mindful that, in assessing fees appropriate to a prevailing party on an anti-SLAPP motion, “[t]he defendant may recover fees and costs only for the motion to strike, not the entire litigation.” (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1320.) “[A] party who partially prevails on an anti-SLAPP motion must generally be considered a prevailing party unless the results of the motion were so insignificant that the party did not achieve any practical benefit from bringing the motion. The determination whether a party prevailed on an anti-SLAPP motion lies within the broad discretion of [the] trial court.’” (City of Colton v. Singletary (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 751, 782 citing Lin v. City of Pleasanton (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 408, 425–426.)

Kardashian here seeks $60,145.88 in attorneys’ fees under Code of Civil Procedure ; 425.16. (Motion at p. 2.) This represents 34.9 hour of attorney work at $725/hr, 2.5 hours of attorney work at $1,200/hr, 43.1 hours of attorney work at $500/hr, and 13.1 hours of attorney work at $325/hr, for a total of 93.6 hours. (Eagan Decl. ¶ 5.) Kardashian’s attorney declares that these attorney rates are comparable to other peer law firms, however, Kardashian does not provide the court with representative rates from the purportedly comparable firms for the Court to assess. (Eagan Decl. ¶ 11.) Kardashian has also failed to provide the Court with copies of the billing statements and descriptions of work performed by each attorney, so that the Court may determine that the billing items are attributable solely to the anti-SLAPP motion.

In Opposition, Jones argues that Kardashian is only entitled to a reduced fee award due to partially prevailing and due to failing to produce billing records. (Oppo. at pp. 4-6.) Further, Jones contends that the number of hours and billing rates claimed are excessive and suggests that a flat $325 per hour rate be applied to all attorneys. (Oppo. at pp. 6-8.)

While billing statements are not required, some description of the billing activities, such as a description declared under penalty of perjury in a declaration, is needed as a substitute. (City of Colton, supra, 206 Cal.App.4th at 786.) In Maughan v. Google (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1248, the court of appeal upheld a trial court’s reduction of an anti-SLAPP attorney’s fee award from the $112,288.63 sought by the moving party to $23,000. The trial court there based its decision on its experience dealing with attorney’s fees motions in similar contexts and a declaration submitted by counsel for the party opposing the motion regarding the reasonable amount of time to have spent on the motion. (Ibid.) The court reduced the fee in part because the time sheets attached with the motion for attorney’s fees were vague, and that it was unclear what the total amount of hours were for the fees sought. (Ibid.) The court also considered the monetary value of the action in reducing its fee award. (Id. at p. 1252.)

Here, Kardashian has not provided sufficient information for the Court to discern whether the requested fees are appropriate. Further, a reduced fee is frequently applied when a party only partially prevails. (City of Colton, supra, 206 Cal.App.4th at 786.)

Accordingly, the Court CONTINUES this motion. Kardashian to file with the Court supplemental documentation regarding billing records and comparable billing rates.

Kardashian to give notice.

Dated: February 4, 2020

__________________________________

Hon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court



Case Number: ****8014    Hearing Date: November 21, 2019    Dept: 78

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

JUSTIN C. JONES,

Plaintiffs,

v.

ROBERT KARDASHIAN, et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.: ****8014

Hearing Date: November 21, 2019

[TENTATIVE] RULING RE:

defendant angela white’s DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFF’S complaint (AS LARGELY STRICKEN AS TO DEFENDANT ANGELA WHITE BY THE COURT’S ORDER DATED SEPTEMBER 25, 2019)

Defendant Angela White (Blac Chyna)’s Demurrer to the Complaint is SUSTAINED without leave to amend with regards to the Third Cause of Action; and OVERRULED with regards to the Second and Fourth Causes of Action.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This is an action for Defamation, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, Cyberbullying in Violation of Penal Code ;653.2, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. The Complaint alleges as follows:

Plaintiff Justin Jones (“Jones”) was friends with Defendant Angela Renee White aka Blac Chyna (“Chyna”), a public personality. (Complaint ¶ 6.)There exists a picture of Jones and Chyna kissing one another on the lips. (Complaint ¶ 7.) In October 2016, this kissing photo was released to an online entertainment publication. (Complaint ¶ 8.) Other sites released the photo with false headlines indicating that Jones and Chyna were in a sexual relationship. (Complaint ¶ 15.) Although Jones did not release the photo, Chyna and Defendant Robert Kardashian (“Kardashian”) believed he did, and so conspired to create a campaign of cyberbullying against Jones by sending threatening texts and releasing Jones’s private phone number and email address to the public. (Complaint ¶¶ 18, 21.) Chyna also released private information about Jones’s sexual orientation. (Complaint ¶ 19.) As a result of the release of Jones’s contact information, he received insulting and threatening messages from the public. (Complaint ¶ 23.) Jones eventually attempted suicide, though he was unsuccessful. (Complaint ¶ 26.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Jones filed the Complaint on October 2, 2017, alleging four causes of action:

  1. Defamation (Against Chyna only)

  2. Public Disclosure of Private Facts

  3. Cyberbullying in Violation of Penal Code ; 653.2

  4. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

On September 25, 2019, this Court granted in part each of the Special Motions to Strike filed by Chyna and Kardashian against the Complaint. The Court granted Chyna’s Motion to Strike as to the First Cause of Action, and granted as to the Second, Third, and Fourth Causes of Action except that the Motion was denied to the extent they were based on the social media statements disclosing Jones’ private contact information. The Court granted Kardashian’s Motion to Strike as to the Second and Third Causes of Action, and granted as to the Fourth Cause of Action except to the extent it was based on the group text messages.

Chyna filed the instant Demurrer on October 29, 2019.

Jones filed an Opposition on November 7, 2019.

Chyna filed a Reply on November 14, 2019.

DISCUSSION

  1. DEMURRER

A demurrer should be sustained only where the defects appear on the face of the pleading or are judicially noticed. (Code Civ. Pro., ;; 430.30, et seq.) In particular, as is relevant here, a court should sustain a demurrer if a complaint does not allege facts that are legally sufficient to constitute a cause of action. (See id. ; 430.10, subd. (e).) As the Supreme Court held in Blank v. Kirwan (1985) Cal.3d 311: “We treat the demurrer as admitting all material facts properly pleaded, but not contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law. . . . Further, we give the complaint a reasonable interpretation, reading it as a whole and its parts in their context.” (Id. at p. 318; see also Hahn. v. Mirda (2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 740, 747 [“A demurrer tests the pleadings alone and not the evidence or other extrinsic matters. Therefore, it lies only where the defects appear on the face of the pleading or are judicially noticed. [Citation.]”)

“In determining whether the complaint is sufficient as against the demurrer … if on consideration of all the facts stated it appears the plaintiff is entitled to any relief at the hands of the court against the defendants the complaint will be held good although the facts may not be clearly stated.” (Gressley v. Williams (1961) 193 Cal.App.2d 636, 639.)

A demurrer for uncertainty is strictly construed, even where a complaint is in some respects uncertain, because ambiguities can be clarified under modern discovery procedures.” (Khoury v. Maly’s of Cal., Inc. (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 612, 616.) Such demurrers “are disfavored, and are granted only if the pleading is so incomprehensible that a defendant cannot reasonably respond.” (Mahan v. Charles W. Chan Insurance Agency, Inc. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 841, 848.)

A demurrer should not be sustained without leave to amend if the complaint, liberally construed, can state a cause of action under any theory or if there is a reasonable possibility the defect can be cured by amendment. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 1081.) The demurrer also may be sustained without leave to amend where the nature of the defects and previous unsuccessful attempts to plead render it probable plaintiff cannot state a cause of action. (Krawitz v. Rusch (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 957, 967.)

Defendant Chyna demurrers to the remaining second, third, and fourth causes of action in the Complaint following this Court’s ruling on Chyna’s anti-SLAPP motion.

  1. Second Cause of Action – Public Disclosure of Private Facts

The elements for public disclosure of private facts are: “(1) public disclosure (2) of a private fact (3) that would be offensive and objectionable to the reasonable person and (4) is not of legitimate public concern.” (Jackson v. Mayweather (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 1240, 1256, as modified (Apr. 19, 2017), review denied (June 28, 2017).)

With respect to the fourth element, “newsworthiness” is a complete bar to liability for publication of truthful information. (Id.) Newsworthiness can be determined by the court by balancing the public’s right to know against the plaintiff’s privacy interest at the point where “the material revealed ceases to have any substantial connection to the subject matter of the newsworthy report.” (Id.)

The demurrer argues that, regarding the allegation that Chyna released Plaintiff’s phone number and email address, the disclosure of this information could not be considered “offensive.” (Motion at pp. 4-5.) Citing to Four Navy Seals v. Associated Press (S.D. Cal. 2005) 413 F.Supp.2d 1136, 1144, Chyna contends that “the release of someone’s phone number and email address, without more, cannot be considered ‘offensive’.” (Id. emphasis in original.)

In Opposition, Plaintiff argues that the Second Cause of Action has been well pleaded. (Opposition at p. 3.) Plaintiff maintains that Chyna has not cited to any cases that have held that the release of a phone number and email address cannot be considered “offensive,” and that Chyna encouraged her social media fans to contact Plaintiff via the provided contact information regarding the paternity dispute, which was offensive and objectionable. (Opposition at pp. 4-5.)

Chyna relies on Four Navy Seals, a Federal District Court case. However, Four Navy Seals is based on a newspaper publishing photographs of Navy Seals purportedly engaging in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners where the faces of the Seals were visible. (Id. at p. 1140.) The private facts alleged to have been disclosed in that case were the identities of the soldiers, where the soldiers had been the ones who originally photographed themselves. (Id. at 1145.) The court found that the soldiers lacked a privacy interest in their faces because they photographed themselves while detaining prisoners and thereafter allowed the posting of the photos on the internet, despite the face that they intended only certain individuals to have access to the website. (Id.)

Four Navy Seals is inapplicable to the instant case because Chyna has released private contact information, not identity or likeness, and Plaintiff Jones did not previously release the contact information himself in some capacity.

In the instant case, Chyna and Plaintiff debate whether the releasing of Plaintiff’s email address and phone number on social media was “offensive” under the law. The standard for offensiveness in the context of public disclosure of private facts considers “the degree of intrusion, the context, conduct and circumstances surrounding the intrusion as well as the intruder's motives and objectives, the setting into which he intrudes, and the expectations of those whose privacy is invaded.” (Miller v. National Broadcasting Co. (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 1463, 1483–1484.)

While California courts have not directly addressed the issue at hand, several Federal cases have indicated that publication of an individual’s home address, without more, cannot be viewed as an invasion of privacy. (See, e.g., Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C. (10th Cir. 2007) 493 F.3d 1210, 1218–1219; McNutt v. New Mexico State Tribune Co. (N.M. Ct. App. 1975) 88 N.M. 162.) However, as both courts note, home addresses are generally public facts, which makes the publication of such address “mere publication[.]” (Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., supra, 493 F.3d at 1218–1219.)

As Plaintiff Jones’ email address and cell phone number are not published elsewhere (such as in a phone book) they are not public facts like the home addresses addressed above, which makes their disclosure more than mere publication.

In Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., a District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia addressed the issue of WikiLeaks’ disclosure of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. (Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (E.D. Va. 2019) 365 F.Supp.3d 652, 655, case dismissed (4th Cir., July 5, 2019, No. 19-1398) 2019 WL 5152518.) In Cockrum, the stolen emails were posted on the Internet, and the posted emails included the plaintiffs’ personal information including social security numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, phone numbers, and banking relationships. (Id.) The court dismissed the claims for public disclosure of private facts because the State of Virginia does not recognize a common law right to privacy. (Id. at 671.)

Unfortunately, as the Cockrum court mentions, public disclosure of private facts is a sparsely litigated invasion of privacy tort. (Id. at 667.) However, a common theme regarding disclosure of private contact information is whether the information has been previously published/disclosed. (Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn (1975) 420 U.S. 469, 494–495 [“the interests in privacy fade when the information involved already appears on the public record”].) Additional themes include whether the plaintiff had an objectively reasonable expectation of seclusion or solitude in his information. (See Shulman v. Group W Productions, Inc. (1998) 18 Cal.4th 200, 232, as modified on denial of reh'g (July 29, 1998).)

Here, Chyna does not argue that Plaintiff Jones’ email address and cell phone number were already in the public record. Chyna also does not argue that Plaintiff Jones did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his personal contact information.

The Complaint in this case alleges that Chyna released Plaintiff’s cell phone number and email address to the public and encouraged the public to contact him when posting the private contact information. (Compl. ¶¶ 21, 23.) As a result of such disclosure and encouragement, Plaintiff received various “scurrilous, disgusting, and threatening messages from unidentified members of the public” including threats on his life (For example, “And today will be the last day of you walking bitch”). (Compl. ¶ 23.)

The Court finds that the Complaint sufficiently alleges a claim for public disclosure of private facts because Plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his private contact information, and releasing such information was offensive because it accompanied encouragement to contact Plaintiff and expectedly resulted in the public contacting Plaintiff with threatening and violent messages.

The Demurrer is OVERRULED as to the Second Cause of Action.

  1. Third Cause of Action – Cyberbullying

The Complaint alleges the Third Cause of Action – Cyberbullying against Chyna, in violation of Penal Code section 653.2. (Compl. ¶¶ 41-43.)

Section 653.2, subsection (a), makes it a misdemeanor for a person, with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his safety, to electronically distribute, publish, e-mail, hyperlink, or make available for downloading, personal identifying information which would be likely to incite or produce unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party. (Pen. Code, ; 653.2.)

In this Demurrer, Chyna argues that Penal Code section 653.2, a criminal statute, does not provide for a private right of action in a civil matter. (Motion at pp. 6-8.) In Opposition, Plaintiff concedes that section 653.2 does not reference an express private right of action but argues that the allegations in the Complaint nonetheless constitute cyberbullying. (Opposition at pp. 5-6.)

Whether a party has a right to sue under a statute depends on whether the Legislature has manifested an intent to create such a private cause of action under the statute, and such legislative intent, if any, is revealed through the language of the statute and its legislative history. (Lu v. Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Inc. (2010) 50 Cal.4th 592, 596.)

Here there is no evidence in the legislative history of section 653.2 that the legislature intended such private right of action and Plaintiff does not provide any evidence of such intent.

Accordingly, the Demurrer is SUSTAINED without leave to amend as to the Third Cause of Action.

  1. Fourth Cause of Action – Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

A cause of action for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”) requires proof of: (1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress; (2) the plaintiff's suffering severe or extreme emotional distress; and (3) actual and proximate causation of the emotional distress by the defendant's outrageous conduct. (Christensen v. Superior Court (1991) 54 Cal.3d 868, 903.)

In her Motion, Chyna argues that her alleged public release of Plaintiff’s phone number and email address is not sufficiently extreme or outrageous conduct as to constitute IIED. (Motion at p. 9.)

In Opposition, Plaintiff argues that the conduct was sufficiently outrageous because Chyna posted the private information on her social media account with many followers, with conscious disregard that those fans would contact Plaintiff and threaten him. (Opposition at pp. 6-7.)

A defendant’s conduct is “outrageous” when it is “so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community.” (Jackson v. Mayweather, supra, 10 Cal.App.5th at 1265.)

Here, the Complaint alleges that Chyna posted Plaintiff’s email address and private cell phone number of her social media account and encouraged the public to contact him. (Compl. ¶¶ 21, 23.) Because Chyna is a celebrity persona with many social media followers, publicizing another person’s private contact information with directions to contact that person is substantially likely to cause distress to that other person, which the Complaint alleges to have resulted in violent threats. (Compl. ¶ 23.) The Plaintiff is entitled to have a jury decide whether the alleged conduct is sufficiently outrageous due to the high number of social media followers, amounting to power over Plaintiff, who would have unauthorized access to Plaintiff’s private contact information.

Accordingly, the Demurrer is OVERRULED with regards to the Fourth Cause of Action.

Plaintiff to give notice.

Dated: November 21, 2019

__________________________________

Hon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court



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