from the because-of-course-not dept
Disclaimer: As you probably already know, the lawyer in this story, Charles Harder, is the lawyer in the ongoing lawsuit against us.
Back in September of last year, we wrote about how our now First Lady Melania Trump, represented by Charles Harder, had sued the Daily Mail and some blogger in Maryland. As we noted at the time, the choice of Maryland for the venue was odd -- since the Daily Mail is a UK publication and Trump (at the time) lived in NY. We speculated that the blogger -- Webster Griffin Tarpley, who was not widely known -- may have been included solely to try to get the case into a Maryland court. As we noted at the time, Maryland's anti-SLAPP law is notoriously weak. In a profile on Harder last year, the Hollywood Reporter noted that he's well aware of the differences in state laws:
In his offices, Harder keeps charts mapping the differences in libel and privacy laws throughout the country. He also has become a pro on where to strategically file cases.
In this case the Article was researched, written for and published in a United Kingdom newspaper and published on a general news website that did not focus on Maryland. The Article was uploaded by MailOne staff in London and MailOne staff in New York posted the Article to the U.S. homepage of MailOnline. No reporter or editor traveled to Maryland in the course of reporting, editing, or publishing the Article.... There are no advertising or business acts conducted by MMI that were purposefully directed to Maryland. Further there is nothing about the parties that connects the case against MMI to Maryland -- MMI does not have an office in Maryland, Plaintiff does not live in Maryland, and the witnesses are not located in Maryland. It would be unreasonable as a matter of constitutional due process for this Court to exert jurisdiction over MMI or MailOnline in the State of Maryland.
Much of the rest of the ruling goes through the arguments brought forth for why Maryland was the proper venue -- including things like having targeted advertising for visitors in Maryland, and having other stories that were local to Maryland -- and disposes of them one by one. None of it stuck.
Of course, on Monday, Harder filed a brand new lawsuit on behalf of Melania Trump against the Daily Mail... in NY state court. The complaint here is much more fleshed out than the original complaint in the Maryland case. The press has mainly pounced on one specific claim in the new lawsuit, about how the original article by the Daily Mail could have harmed Trump's ability to cash in on a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity. From the lawsuit:
As a result of Defendant's publication of defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Plaintiff's brand has lost significant value, and major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her have been lost and/or substantially impacted. The economic damage to Plaintiff's brand, and licensing, marketing and endorsement opportunities caused by the publication of Mail Online's defamatory article, is multiple millions of dollars. Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered mutli-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.
That's definitely a lot more fleshed out and specific than what was in the original complaint in Maryland (which was filed before the election):
Plaintiff is involved in many business ventures involving the licensing of her name and likeness, and relying upon her valuable reputation, and the defamatory publication foreseeably caused substantial damage to her business, career, reputation and her actual and prosepctive economic relationships. As a result of the conduct of Daily Mail, Plaintiff has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial.
Of course, what changed between the first complaint and the second complaint was Melania's husband becoming President of the United States. Thus, the clear implication -- that many in the media are making -- is that the "once in a lifetime" opportunity is to somehow cash in on the Presidency. Of course, I do wonder how much damage to her brand could really be attributed to those articles, which have since been deleted, seeing as her reputation -- and the fact that she will now be "one of the most photographed women in the world" -- certainly seems to have massively boosted her reputation and massively increased her areas of opportunity if she does choose to cash in (i.e., it seems that she might have had a stronger case if she had not become First Lady). Separately, in an era where people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have become massive licensing juggernauts, I'm curious how much damage the Daily Mail reports could actually do to potential brand/licensing deals.
Either way, Harder and Trump will continue pushing forward in their lawsuit against the Daily Mail, just in New York, rather than Maryland. And, yes, if you were wondering, New York has an unfortunately weak anti-SLAPP law.