Kim Kardashian, her mom Kris Jenner and sisters Kylie Jenner and Khloé Kardashian had reason to celebrate at the Met Gala in Manhattan Monday night after a Los Angeles jury found the women owed no damages to Rob Kardashian’s former fiancé Blac Chyna for her $100 million defamation and contract interference lawsuit.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated 10 hours before deciding Kris and her daughters Khloé and Kylie had “reasonable grounds” to believe the allegedly defamatory statements they made about Chyna, even if some ultimately were false. In the case of Kris, for instance, the jurors found she was wrong when she texted a TV executive that Chyna had “beat the shit out of” her son Rob’s face. Still, the jury found Kris had reason to believe her statement was true when she wrote it.
“Kris, as a mother, probably had a gut reaction and blew it up before she could see reality. In the beginning she said ‘face’ and later changed it (in a subsequent text). I agree that when you get more information, after a few days, you can clarify,” Rajiv Ghosh, the jury’s 35-year-old foreman from Arcadia, tells Rolling Stone.
The jurors further found that while Kris, Kim and Khloé were not necessarily justified in some of their actions challenging Chyna’s relationship with the E! Network, their conduct did not “prevent performance” of Chyna’s contract or make it “more expensive or difficult.”
They did find that Kylie intentionally interfered with Chyna’s contract, but they decided her meddling was not a “substantial factor in causing harm” to Chyna.
Ghosh says he personally didn’t believe Kylie interfered with Chyna’s contract, but nine other members on the jury disagreed. (Each cause of action required nine of 12 votes for a verdict in the civil case.)
“Even if she was the closest to [interfering], I also felt like Kylie was the most empathetic towards her brother. Most of her testimony, and her email, involved her caring deeply about her brother. In my head, if it’s 51 perecnt caring about her brother, then I felt like she wasn’t interfering, but the majority ruled the other way,” Ghosh says. Overall, the jury wasn’t swayed by the trial’s blinding star power, he says.
“We totally put the celebrity aside. We lucked out in that we weren’t really starstruck. I personally was not. I could keep it fair. I respected both parties,” Ghosh says. “Most people, if not everybody, did not watch either show.”
Kardashian-Jenner lawyer Michael Rhodes said his clients, who were in New York to attend the Met Gala, were “very pleased” with the outcome. “They were exuberant,” he said of his post-verdict phone call with his clients.
“On behalf of Kris, Kim, Khloé, and Kylie, I want to express our appreciation to the jury. We are also grateful for the steady hand of Judge [Gregory] Alarcon in making sure that this was a fair trial. The jury sent a clear message to Ms. White and her lawyer – I hope they are listening. Justice has prevailed,” Rhodes and his trial co-counsel Michelle Doolin said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
Chyna’s lawyer, Lynne Ciani, said her reading of the outcome was that jurors determined Chyna did not batter Rob and that the Kardashian-Jenner women interfered with her client’s contract. She vowed to appeal.
Chyna, 33, had accused the Kardashian-Jenner women of conspiring to kill Season Two of her E! reality series Rob & Chyna just as she was reaching the height of her fame and inking lucrative deals with top brands like MAC Cosmetics. She claimed the women carried out a secret campaign behind her back that falsely accused her of physically abusing her former fiancé, Rob Kardashian — the sole Kardashian brother — during a blowout fight on Dec. 15, 2016.
The model and influencer, whose legal name is Angela White, testified that while it was true she smashed a gingerbread house, destroyed a TV, and damaged a door inside the Kylie Jenner-owned home where she was living with Rob and their four-week-old daughter Dream that Dec. 15, she never battered Rob. White, who filed her lawsuit in late 2017, claimed she was only making “silly” bids for Rob’s attention when she waved an unloaded gun and put an iPhone charging cord around his neck while they were celebrating the Dec. 14, 2016 press announcement that E! was moving forward with a second season of their show.
According to Chyna, it was Rob who crossed the line that morning when he stole her phone in a fit of jealousy, locked himself in a closet, and started going through the device, refusing to return it. And she said Kris, Kim, Kylie, and Khloé used defamatory statements along with a threat to stop shooting their Keeping Up With the Kardashians show for the E! Network to make sure Rob & Chyna got the boot.
The famous family members, meanwhile, stood their ground, fighting the lawsuit at every turn over the last four years. At least two — but often all four — of the Kardashian-Jenner women attended each day of the eight-day trial in Los Angeles, presenting a united front in the courtroom gallery. All four took the witness stand.
Kris Jenner testified for the family first, claiming she felt no ill will when White hooked up with her son in 2016 after allegedly threatening Kylie. “If [Chyna] made Rob happy, then I was happy,” Kris said. “We were just in it for them to win. I really wanted Chyna to grow and be the best version of herself and be happy.”
Kylie, 24, was the next family member to take the stand. She claimed it wasn’t a big deal when White allegedly threatened her via text while she was dating the rapper Tyga, who shares a son with White. Kylie added that while Tyga allegedly told her White once slashed his arm with a knife, she wasn’t opposed to her joining the family
“Did I welcome her? Yeah. I think that we had an OK relationship for a while. I actually wanted to be cool with Chyna. I felt like I spent a lot of time with her son and despite everything, I actually did want it to work out for my brother,” Kylie testified.
The makeup mogul, like her sisters Kim and Khloé, told jurors she was legitimately concerned about Rob’s well-being when she sent an email to former E! executive Jeff Olde on Dec. 20, 2016, saying she felt “very strongly about canceling Season 2 of Rob & Chyna.” In the email, Kylie alleged White was using drugs and “physically abusing” her brother.
In a follow-up email in the same chain later that day, Khloé wrote that “the sisters are clearly concerned and uncomfortable for our brother’s safety and the credibility of the brand at this point due to how they are both tarnishing it.” In her testimony on the witness stand, Khloé said she blamed both White and her brother Rob for bad behavior that made their show untenable. “What I do know is that there was such volatile behavior from both of them, and we wanted to protect our brand and voice our concerns as to how outrageous and violent and chaotic it was. And we could not sleep at night without saying something. Because if, God forbid, something more happened, I mean, that would be absolutely terrible to live with that on our souls,” she testified.
Speaking to the jury during his closing statement Wednesday, Rhodes said that whatever the women said was out of familial protectiveness. He further argued none of it stopped E! and its parent company, NBC Universal, from continuing to weigh a possible Season Two of Rob & Chyna. Rhodes said network executives were still trying to “pave” a path forward for the show months after Rob and White’s big fight, going as far as extending the option pickup deadline on White’s contract from March 1, 2017, to Aug. 1, 2017. Rhodes said the five-month extension, ratified in late February 2017, also granted White a new, $100,000 kill fee on her Rob & Chyna deal, whereas before there was no safety net at all, and a $370,000 filming deal to shoot scenes for the family’s mother-ship show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
“The central theory of her case is that my clients killed her show. It’s not true. Don’t believe it. Don’t buy it,” Rhodes said. “This is a really bad conspiracy, folks. It’s bad. It doesn’t work very well. The conspiracy to kill the show is, ‘Let’s kill the show, and let’s pay her a bunch of money.’ Does that make any sense?”
Kim was effectively let off the hook for the defamation claim last week when the final version of jury instructions — read to jurors on Thursday — failed to spell out how Kim allegedly defamed White. White’s lawyer had proposed a jury instruction back on April 1 stating that jurors could find Kim liable if they believed she generally stated at some point that White had physically abused Rob. The judge later ruled that the instruction was too vague and had to “be modified to include the actual sentences, not paraphrased statements.”
When Ciani protested Thursday about how the final instruction ended up, the judge overruled her objection. Ciani later asked the court to add a new instruction after the fact stating that White need only establish that Kim took a “responsible part” in the defamation. The judge rejected her request Friday and granted a defense motion to officially drop the defamation claim related to Kim only.
In perhaps the most crucial testimony during the eight-day trial, Kris’ boyfriend, Corey Gamble, said he rushed to the house the morning of the December 2016 fight and witnessed White throw a metal rod to the floor before she picked up a cord that she whipped at Rob seconds before she started wailing on him. He also testified that he saw her hurl a metal chair at Rob’s car.
The eyewitness testimony not only backed up Rob’s claims of physical battery but gave a pretext for the four defendants to find credibility in the claims that Chyna had turned physically abusive.
Rhodes called the case a “sad” and very personal “family drama.”
“It’s grim,” Rhodes told the jury, referring to Rob’s agitated demeanor on the witness stand as he claimed White allegedly tried to kill him. “Is that where we are in our country? This show has to go on? We’re going to put this on no matter what? What was it doing to him emotionally? You could see it in his face. Is that what this is about? Fame, celebrity, at any cost? They can’t express their concerns? And if they express it in somewhat colorful language, they have to come to court and defend themselves against someone who says they owe millions of dollars?”
White had been asking $44,761,098 for loss of earning damages and $64,873,923 in loss of future earning capacity, court filings show. She said each season of Rob & Chyna was worth $740,000 to her, and she could have filmed two per year over the last five years. She further claimed she was earning $25,000 per sponsored social media post at the height of her fame and $20,000 for club appearances.
Rhodes urged jurors to send White away empty-handed, harping on the fact that she admitted on the stand that she failed to file her tax returns for 2019, 2020, and 2021.
“You can’t give her a nickel. You’re going to reward that behavior? You cheated the government, but we’re going to give you millions of dollars?” Rhodes asked rhetorically.
Ciani told jurors her client was the victim of an unscrupulous accountant. “She was never told by the IRS she was doing anything wrong. And she will get right with that. Don’t let that distract you from the facts of this case,” Ciani said in some of her last words to the jury late Wednesday.
One juror tells Rolling Stone that the missing financial records were an issue. “We thought it was kind of weird that she didn’t submit the taxes. That was something we had in the back of our minds,” the 19-year-old juror who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Eron, says.
“We didn’t feel like they interfered with the contract because the relationship was already breaking up. They were already broken up. There would be no Season Two if there was no Rob and Chyna.”
Now that the defamation trial is over, Rob Kardashian, 35, will face a separate but related trial over White’s “revenge porn” claims related to naked photos of her that he posted online in July 2017.