After 10 hours of deliberations, jurors returned a verdict Monday in which Blac Chyna received no damages for her $100 million defamation and contract interference case against Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Kylie Jenner, and Khloé Kardashian.
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 brothers 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, Kardashian-Jenner lawyer Michael 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, granted 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, Lynne Ciani, 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 stated wailing on him. He also saw her hurl a metal chair at Rob’s car, he said.
They 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.
White’s lawyer Lynne 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.
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.
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