Over the past decade, one of the biggest stories that emerged in the music industry is that of a female pop star Kesha accusing a big-name producer Dr. Luke of sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse. On Wednesday, the pop star scored her biggest victory in the seven-year legal fight as the court released a decision allowing Kesha to pursue counterclaims.
The long-running defamation lawsuit filed by Dr. Luke against the pop singer emerged after Kesha’s public allegations of rape in 2014 and 2016 in a series of text messages between herself and Lady Gaga. Sometime later this year, when the case goes to trial, the producer will have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was actual malice in Kesha’s accusations. The singer is also pursuing trial compensations, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees from the producer.
A decision released by the New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter on June 30, 2021, states that New York’s recently enacted SLAPP statute applies in the case and is potentially significant during the hearings. Dr. Luke’s attorney, although nodding to the evidentiary burden, suggested that her client’s substantive rights were violated.
After Schecter’s decision, Dr. Luke’s attorney issued a statement: “Today’s court hearing was only about a technical legal issue: the burden of proof. At trial, Dr. Luke will prove to the jury, as he has always maintained, that Kesha spread a vicious lie to get out of her contracts. Kesha refuses to make any claim against Like that she would have the burden of proof on—because she knows she would lose and that she is lying.”
Dr. Luke’s camp scored many advantages back in February 2020 when the summary judgment, including the judge’s conclusion that he wasn’t a public figure and that Kesha published a false statement claiming that he had raped her, as well as molesting Katy Perry. On an appeal, the New York appeals court also stunned legal observers and the press by agreeing that Dr. Luke is a private entity.
The new court decision is a breakthrough win for Kesha and her camp. The singer’s attorney Leah Godesky recently released a statement on their goal of pursuing a counterclaim: “As everyone knows from the beginning, this is a he-said-she-said case where the evidentiary burden matters.”
New York’s recently passed law called the Anti-SLAPP statute protects free speech from frivolous accusations. Thanks to the statute, private figures now have to demonstrate actual malice in certain situations, such as Kesha’s defamation case against Dr. Luke. To prevail in this defamation trial, the producer will now “need to show more than just a preponderance of the evidence that there was no rape; he’ll need to show that the pop star, who alleges she was drugged before the rape, had knowledge of falsity or recklessly disregarded the truth.”
Previously, Kesha and Dr. Luke had disputed in court when the singer broke ties with Dr. Luke and his record label over the alleged withholding of funds and Kesha’s original sexual assault charges, which the artist dropped in 2016.
The counterclaim case still has no trial date, but it could take place in the coming months.