Earlier in the year, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was hit with a number of claims from ex-fiancee Shantel Jackson. The causes of action included assault, battery, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. Mayweather’s hard-working legal counsel is making efforts to get several of the claims dismissed including those regarding defamation and invasion of privacy.
The Defamatory/Invasive Statement
After their breakup, Jackson supposedly had a private abortion, which was made maliciously public by Mayweather. The Instagram post regarding Jackson’s abortion stated:
“The real reason me and Shantel Christine Jackson @missjackson broke up was because she got an abortion, and I am totally against killing babies. She killed out twin babies. #ShantelJackson #FloydMayweather #TheMoneyTeam #TMT”
It also showed a photo and medical notes from Jackson’s ultrasound. This event took place in May, just after Mayweather’s win over Marcos Maidana. Jackson also claims that the boxer threatened to release nude photos of her after their breakup. He also posted intentionally unflattering photos of Jackson on Instagram.
The defense presented by Mayweather’s attorney centers on the contention that the couple are “public figures” and therefore have to meet a higher burden of proof to secure a cause of action for defamation.
It is true that if an individual is classified as a public figure, it is more difficult to prove defamation because of the inherent openness of personal affairs. Public figures are generally defined as people in “positions of such persuasive power and influence that they are deemed public figures for all purposes . . . They invite attention and comment.”
Along with meeting the standards of defamation, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.” This means that the statement must have been published with knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the statement’s truth or falsity. This standard also focuses on the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the statement.
Truth is often the first line of defense in these types of cases. This may become an issue for Jackson since it should be fairly easy to prove that the abortion did occur. If the abortion as a reason for the break becomes an issue, that could be a different story. The malice comes from the implication that Jackson is a “baby killer.”
Invasion of Privacy
The claim of invasion of privacy focuses on the specific issue of “public disclosure of private facts.” Unlike defamation, truth is not a defense. The elements of a private facts claim include:
- Public Disclosure: The disclosure of facts must be public. Another way of saying this is that the defendant must “give publicity” to the fact or facts in question.
- Private Fact: The fact or facts disclosed must be private, and not generally known.
- Offensive to a Reasonable Person: Publication of the private facts in question must be offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.
- Not Newsworthy: The facts disclosed must not be “newsworthy” meaning that the facts disclosed must not be a matter of legitimate public concern.
The hold-up on this claim will be the “newsworthy” element as many courts have held that the private lives of public figures usually hold legitimate public interest.
According to Restatement (Second) of Torts § 263D, “concerning homicide and other crimes, arrests, police raids, suicides, marriages and divorces, accidents, fires, catastrophes of nature, a death from the use of narcotics, a rare disease, the birth of a child to a twelve-year-old girl, the reappearance of one supposed to have been murdered years ago, a report to the police concerning the escape of a wild animal and many other similar matters of genuine, even if more or less deplorable, popular appeal.”
Issues of celebrity relationships are generally free game. That being said, Mayweather’s legal counsel may be able to succeed on the defense claiming the couple’s public figure status. According to TMZ, the motion to dismiss asserts Mayweather’s celebrity status as a professional athlete and contends that Jackson used this status to boost her own public persona. “She asked me to help her become famous,” stated Mayweather in the motion. He also stated, “A public figure involved with another public relationship can expect publicity not privacy, about why it ends.”