It isn’t everyday that a defamation lawsuit involves less than stellar feminine hygiene and extramarital affairs. In her original suit, the former “Real Housewives of Miami” cast member, Joanna Krupa claimed Brandi Glanville’s comments were “damaging and humiliating.” The former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star’s lawyers, meanwhile, argue that she did not act with “malice” – an element Joanna must prove in the Sunshine State to succeed on a claim for defamation – because she had no reason to believe what she said was false. Now Brandi is taking matters into her own hands.
As we reported, Joanna is suing Brandi in Florida for “slander, libel, defamation and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress.” In 2013, Brandi announced on live TV that Joanna and Mohamed Hadid had an affair while he was still in an intact marriage with Yolanda Foster and that Mohamed told her Joanna’s vagina smelled.
According to court records filed on or about June 22, 2015, Brandi submitted her answer in response to Joanna’s defamation claims. The reality star aimed, shot, and fired at Mrs. Zago, noting she’s done a number of things to her personally, including giving her the middle finger during an appearance at Tampa’s Hard Rock Casino.
Oftentimes in civil practice, there is a “he said, she said” quality to the proceedings. Here, Brandi painted Joanna, once again, in a negative light for statements Brandi claims Joanna made.
Brandi named – in her answer – specific incidents in which she has felt scorned and defamed by Joanna. Brandi alleges Joanna called her a drunken racist with a “little brain.” Brandi also listed a public outing by Joanna in which Joanna wore a “Team Rimes” shirt. Brandi charges that Joanna taunted her on Twitter and called her “trailer trash.”
Brandi’s defense to the lawsuit is straightforward: Joanna is at least as guilty of the same behavior (defamatory statements) Brandi has been confronted with, so the former “Dancing with the Stars” contestant should have the courthouse doors closed to her tort claims.
There is no question Brandi’s answer added fuel to the defamation fire but, shockingly, there is a method to the Drinking and Tweeting author’s madness. Brandi’s responsive pleading amounts to something in tort law called “unclean hands,” which is a doctrine that prevents one party to a lawsuit (Joanna) from receiving a particular outcome to a case because that party has also engaged in bad behavior.
The unclean hands doctrine is derived from the maxim that “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” For Brandi, it must have been all hands on deck in raising a defense that involves Joanna’s own statements.
Brandi maintains that Joanna should be barred from bringing this suit because she engaged in the same behavior that she finds actionable. Were Joanna’s statements, i.e., Brandi is a drunken racist and trailer trash with a little brain, defamatory so much so that Joanna should be prevented from bringing this action? The unclean hands doctrine permits a court to exercise broad discretion in denying relief to a litigant who has acted in an unconscionable way.
Remember, Joanna alleged in her lawsuit that she experienced severe emotional distress as a result of Brandi’s remarks. Could the same be said for the comments Joanna made about Brandi? The principle behind unclean hands is that relief will not be granted to a wrongdoer.
To establish the defense of unclean hands under Florida law, Brandi must prove: 1) the wrongdoing (by Joanna) is “directly related” to the claim against which the defense is being asserted; and 2) the defendant was “personally injured” by plaintiff’s conduct. The doctrine does not call for a balancing of the misconduct on both sides. Rather, the conduct of the party seeking relief (Joanna) and its effect on the judicial process are the sole considerations of the court.
Unclean hands is an equitable remedy and is usually not an available defense to claims for monetary relief. Here, as long as Joanna’s complaint sought an injunction (equitable remedy) to prevent Brandi from continuing to say harmful and defamatory things about her in addition to the monetary relief pled, the defense may be successful.
On Independence Day (ah, the poetic justice) Brandi tweeted about the case, blasting Joanna’s lawyers for abusing the legal system and using this high-profile lawsuit for shameless self-promotion. “Happy 4th to EVERYONE!Even lawyers who abuse our legal system&there clients,for self promotion & press!”
Brandi also took the opportunity afforded her on social media to emphasize the fact that Joanna is just as guilty of making defamatory statements. She wrote, “it seems unethical 4 a lawyer 2B tweeting about his case,posting links to negative stories about own client doing EXACTLY what he claims I am.” Oh, the tangled legal webs we weave.
There are other, well-established legally cognizable defenses for Brandi to use. In a defamation case, the defendant can only be held liable if the statement involved was false. A true statement does not meet the legal requirements for defamation.
Additionally, Brandi might argue that the statement she made about Joanna’s smelly lady parts was an opinion, and an opinion cannot be held to be defamation. Remember, defamatory statements are statements of fact damaging to the plaintiff’s reputation. Opinions are not considered defamation because, among other things, they cannot be proven to be false. Whether Joanna had an affair with Mohamed Hadid could certainly be proven as true or false.
The Miami-Dade County Civil Court has its hands full. Will you give Brandi’s “unclean hands” defense the thumbs up or will Brandi’s blunders and unfiltered ways be tamed in a court of law? Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and let us know whether Joanna’s statements about Brandi will prevent her from prevailing in this lawsuit.