Posted Jan 16, 2014 08:25 pm CST
Three years ago, Courtney Love paid $430,000 to settle a fashion designer’s lawsuit over a series of insulting tweets made by the singer and actress in the heat of a dispute over a $4,000 bill.
Now the rock singer and actress is at trial in a California defamation suit brought by an attorney and her law firm over another Twitter message. In it, Love claimed that her onetime lawyer, Rhonda Holmes, had been “bought off” concerning a case she wanted to bring related to the estate of her deceased husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, ABC 10 News reports.
The case is the first in the country to go to trial based on alleged defamation in a tweet, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. (A Poynter Institute article on the legal implications of the case calls it the first U.S. “Twibel” trial.)
That could be significant elsewhere, if other courts find persuasive a December ruling in the Los Angeles Superior Court case. It nixed an argument by Love’s lawyers that hasty, opinionated language on Twitter should be interpreted differently than if the same words had been used in a more formal setting, Spin reported at the time.
It appears that Love herself may see the argument as weak:
Holmes said in a sworn statement that Love had agreed earlier this year to settle this libel case for $600,000 and make a retraction, but then failed to pay and republished her defamatory claim.
However, information about the claimed settlement won’t be provided to the Los Angeles jury, which heard opening statements on Wednesday from plaintiffs attorney Barry Langberg that the tweet was part of “a concerted effort … to destroy Ms. Holmes and her law firm,” the ABC station reports.
Also at issue in the case is whether Love’s subsequent critical statements about an unnamed female attorney in an online article harmed Holmes’ reputation and whether Love should not be held liable because she says she intended the tweet to be private.
Defense attorney John Lawrence said Love believed she had been abandoned by Holmes and her firm at a time Love was seeking to prevent third parties from looting her husband’s estate
Langberg said his client was devastated when Love fired Holmes.
Then the 49-year-old Love herself briefly took the stand, saying that she had never fired Holmes, but “in my mind I let her go.”
ABAJournal.com: “Courtney Love’s Ex-Counsel Loses Round in Libel Suit re Singer’s Tweet, Can’t Depose Love’s Daughter”
Hollywood Reporter: “Courtney Love to Defend Controversial Tweet on Monday”
Spin: “Courtney Love’s Twitter Defamation Case Is Going to Trial”
Spin: “Courtney Love’s Defamation Trial Defense: Tweet Was Meant to Be Private”