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Kardashians win Blac Chyna defamation case over canceled reality show

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The Kardashians won their legal battle with reality star Blac Chyna on Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Chyna was not awarded any damages in her nearly five-year lawsuit against the family, whom she accused of defaming her and ruining her reality television career.

Chyna, the model and television personality born Angela White, starred with former fiance Rob Kardashian in the E! series “Rob & Chyna” for a single season that premiered in late 2016. She sued several members of the Kardashian-Jenner family in October 2017, saying they purposely torpedoed a series renewal, and reportedly sought more than $140 million in economic damages and general damages for emotional distress.

While the jury found the Kardashians’ behavior at times aligned with some of Chyna’s claims toward them, it determined their actions did not affect the longevity of Chyna’s reality show or her career overall. Michael Rhodes and Michelle Doolin, attorneys for the Kardashians, said in a statement that “the jury sent a clear message to Ms. White and her lawyer — I hope they are listening. Justice has prevailed.”

Chyna left the courtroom after its delivery, appearing flustered. The Washington Post has reached out to her attorney for comment on the verdict.

The jury trial began this month after lower courts ruled Chyna submitted enough evidence to back claims specifically against Rob’s mother, Kris Jenner, and her daughters Kim Kardashian, Khloé Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. On Friday, as the jury deliberated, Kim was dropped from the lawsuit after the judge ruled she had not taken a “responsible part” in the allegedly defamatory statements.

The original complaint filed against the Kardashians on Chyna’s behalf stated, “The unwritten rule no one told Ms. White when she embarked upon a relationship with Mr. Kardashian is: the entire family takes it personally if you leave and will come after you, using their fame, wealth and power to take you down.”

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During the opening statements, which kicked off April 19, Chyna’s attorney Lynne Ciani stated that the Kardashians “secretly and falsely” accused Chyna of abusing Rob, which she said caused the cancellation of “Rob & Chyna.” Ciani also alleged the Kardashians had threatened to pull their hit series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” from E! if the network didn’t take “Rob & Chyna” off the air, causing Chyna “significant financial damages.”

Ciani went on to track Chyna’s life trajectory through her childhood as a diligent student raised by a single mother in D.C., her years working as an exotic dancer to save up money and her eventual success, resulting in the reality television series. Chyna became “best friends” with Kim in 2013, according to Ciani, and began a whirlwind romance with Rob in January 2016. That April, Chyna and Rob were engaged. The next month, Chyna announced she was pregnant with their child; “Rob & Chyna” picks up during her pregnancy.

With the show, Ciani said, Chyna aimed to “bring the ‘real’ back to reality.” It dealt with subjects including Rob’s depression, as well as the ups and downs of the couple’s relationship — which came to an end when they called off their engagement in February 2017, just three months after the birth of their daughter, Dream. Ciani stressed that NBCUniversal, E!’s parent company, had initially greenlit a second season of “Rob & Chyna.” Rhodes, an attorney for the Kardashians, argued that this didn’t mean the show had been officially or legally renewed.

Central to the legal proceedings was what happened between the couple in mid-December 2016. The defense held that Chyna became extremely violent during a fight with Rob, destroying a TV and door in their home in addition to attempting to choke Rob with an iPhone cord. Ciani said that while the video evidence depicted Chyna becoming angry and breaking the TV, it did not support the claim that she attacked Rob.

Because of the alleged attack, Ciani said, Kris became the “ringleader” of a covert campaign to cancel the second season of “Rob & Chyna.” The attorney said Kris texted production executives that Chyna was “stupid,” “drunk for 3 days” and “really ghetto” and that Rob needed to “ditch the b—-.” According to Ciani, Kim directed Khloé and Kylie to lie to producers; Kylie emailed E! executives and offered to film her own series to replace her brother’s.

Ciani said that nobody told Chyna about the allegations against her, and that she assumed her show would go on.

Rhodes began the defense’s opening statements by noting that “there is no drama like a family drama.” He stressed his clients’ immense fame and “vast empire.” He said that Chyna “wanted very much to be a part of this family,” and that she “was willing to say or do just about anything to be a part of that family.”

The trial seemed a publicity move for Chyna, according to Rhodes, who pointed out that she refused to provide tax returns as proof she lost income from the cancellation of “Rob & Chyna.” (According to Vulture, Chyna testified that she hasn’t paid taxes since telling her accountant to stop preparing her tax returns for 2019.) He also denied that his clients defamed Chyna or interfered with her contract, which he said only guaranteed one season. He added that she signed an agreement for a $100,000 kill fee if the show was not renewed; Chyna said the signature was forged.

Rhodes countered Ciani by stating that the fight between Rob and Chyna was not filmed, and that the family heard about the incident from Rob. He said the Kardashians and E! executives wanted the couple to go to counseling to save the relationship — as well as the show — and that as executive producers, the Kardashians acted against their own interests in wanting to cancel “Rob & Chyna.” He said they did it out of concern for Rob’s well-being.

Kris testified that she believed Chyna capable of killing Rob when she pointed a gun at his head. Chyna said she did that as a joke, according to the Associated Press, and her team argued in court that Rob did not appear to have any facial injuries in the days after the fight. Vulture reported that Kris was asked about a text message she sent to a “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” producer saying Chyna had “beat the s—” out of Rob’s face.

“If Rob’s telling me that he’s gotten strangled with a cord or beat up with a pole, where somebody puts a gun to your head, I might say, ‘She beat the s— out of Rob’s face.’ It’s a figure of speech,” Kris said in court. “I hadn’t even seen him yet, so I don’t know whether he had marks on his face or not. It’s the way I talk.”

The jury determined Monday that while Kris’s text was not “substantially true,” she had “reasonable grounds” to believe Rob’s face had been injured in such a manner.

Before she was dropped from the lawsuit, Kim testified that she couldn’t recall trying to get “Rob & Chyna” canceled — “I don’t remember text messages that I sent this morning,” she said — but admitted to making an effort to keep Chyna out of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” after hearing the allegations of Chyna abusing Rob.

“I will not go into a toxic work environment,” Kim said, according to the AP. “On my own show, I have the power to do that.”

Vulture reported that Rob testified Chyna “put a gun to my head and tried to strangle me and kick me out and beat me” the night of the fight; Kris’s longtime boyfriend, business executive Corey Gamble, backed Rob’s account in court. Rob, accused of revenge porn after posting three naked photos of Chyna on Instagram after their breakup, filed to dismiss his own assault lawsuit against Chyna earlier this year, according to multiple reports.

Jessica P. Ogilvie reported from Los Angeles. Emily Yahr contributed to this report.

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