A new decision in Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald’s defamation case against Kesha ruled that Dr. Luke will now have to provide evidence that there was actual malice behind Kesha’s rape allegations against him. The decision was made by New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter, who said that New York’s 2020 anti-SLAPP statute applies to this case.
New York’s new anti-SLAPP law went into effect in November 2020, adding more protection against frivolous claims. It’s due to this statute that some private figures like Dr. Luke will be required to prove actual malice. In April 2021, the New York Supreme Court had denied Kesha’s appeal in the defamation case due to their decision that Dr. Luke is not a “household name,” and therefore not a “public figure,” regardless of his connection to many household names as a renowned producer.
Because of this decision, Dr. Luke will have to not only prove that there no evidence of rape, but also provide evidence that Kesha knew her claim was false or recklessly disregarded the truth. Justice Schecter’s decision led Dr. Luke’s attorney Christine Lepera to point out to the court that she had been relying upon the lack of evidence of rape at the start of the defamation case when it was first filed back in 2017, years before the update to New York’s SLAPP laws. In spite of this new evidentiary responsibility, she expressed confidence in still winning the case.
Lepera had argued that nothing in the wording of the new SLAPP law provided for it to be applied retroactively, claiming that it would impact Dr. Luke’s substantive rights. However, there had been precedence for the anti-SLAPP law applying retroactively when U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff ruled in December 2020 that it applied to Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times. Schecter’s decision was that the intent of the new legislation was for it to affect cases immediately, with a nod to the precedence.
Justice Schecter is also providing Kesha the opportunity to advance a counterclaim against Dr. Luke, likewise based on the retroactive impact of the anti-SLAPP laws. As Kesha’s attorney Leah Godesky argued, “As everyone knows from [the] beginning, this is a he-said-she-said case where the evidentiary burden matters.”
Dr. Luke’s attorney team responded to the decision, alleging, “Today’s court hearing was only about a technical legal issue: the burden of proof at trial. Dr. Luke would have filed this case regardless of 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 Luke that she would have the burden of proof on — because she knows she would lose and that she is lying.”
There have been several different lawsuits and many claims made by each party over the last seven years. It started when Kesha sued Dr. Luke for allegedly abusing her sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally, to which Dr. Luke immediately countersued, claiming that Kesha was just suing him as a form of alleged extortion for not letting her out of her recording contract.
Over the course of the battle, Dr. Luke also sued Kesha’s mom and Kesha’s lawyer for alleged defamation. Texts about Dr. Luke that Kesha sent to Lady Gaga also got brought into question that were later ruled to be defamatory. Kesha also sued to get out of her six-album contract with Sony, but a judge dismissed the case and an appeals court rejected her appeal. Soon after, Kesha dropped her abuse case against him as well. It was about a year after that when Dr. Luke filed his defamation lawsuit against Kesha.
Photo credit: Sharon Alagna