Blake Shelton’s Libel Suit Against ‘In Touch’ Moves Forward
Blake Shelton’s $2 million lawsuit against In Touch Weekly is reportedly moving forward after a judge ruled that the tabloid’s purported (and disputed) claims that Shelton recently entered rehab do not fall under protected speech.
“A reasonable person viewing the In Touch headlines and sub-headlines — which were located 30 pages away from the Article — might well have concluded that Shelton had, in fact, entered ‘REHAB’ after ‘his friends begged him to stop joking about drinking & get help,'” wrote Judge Christina A. Snyder according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Judge Snyder denied the magazine’s motion to dismiss Shelton’s lawsuit under the anti-SLAPP statute (which was put in place to protect parties from unlawful censorship via intimidation tactics), saying the headline alone gave the country singer’s defense a significant boost in their case.
In Touch, however, claimed their story -- which falsely implied the Voice judge entered rehab following his split from Miranda Lambert -- did not qualify as libel because Shelton has joked about drinking to excess in the past. They said “it would be entirely commendable for Shelton to seek rehab considering his undisputed history of bragging about his own drunkenness and his well-publicized behavior while under the influence of alcohol.”
But Snyder disagrees with the tabloid, writing, "No courts appear to have held that defamation claims premised upon false reports of treatment in rehabilitation must fail, as a matter of law. This Court accordingly declines to be the first."
The magazine took things a step further, saying Shelton is “libel proof” because he sometimes tweets about being drunk (???).
But Snyder makes the point that Shelton’s comments on social media do not give In Touch or any other publication the green light to write about a made-up stint in rehab: "Even if plaintiff is 'libel proof' as to false assertions regarding his 'excessive drinking,' this does not mean defendants may make false assertions regarding his treatment in 'REHAB' with impunity."