Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Siegal-Kardashian Libel Suit Will Make You Toss Your Cookies

A titanic legal struggle is being waged in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County, Florida, involving Dr. Sanford Siegal, famed cookie-diet doctor, and Kim Kardashian, famed, uh, Kardashian.

The case, Dr. Sanford Siegal & Dr. Siegal's Direct Nutritionals, LLC v. Kim Kardashian (Case No. 09-93439CA15), concerns four counts of defamation brought by the plaintiffs against the 29-year-old co-star of the E! reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Dancing With the Stars also-ran, over two allegedly libelous tweets in October 2009.

As initially reported in The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog, Siegal, a Miami-based doctor who hawks a weight-loss program in tv appearances and on his Web site, www.cookiediet.com, sent samples of his products to Kardashian's publicist, and subsequently, posted a hyperlink to a Kardashian weight loss article on his Web site. He later removed the hyperlink after getting a lawyer letter from Kardashian's counsel.

Kardashian, no stranger to endorsing products, who earns as much as $10,000 per "tweet" and boasts more than 2.7 million followers on her Twitter account (that ticking sound you heard was the Doomsday Clock advancing 10 minutes), was aghast at what she purportedly considered a craven attempt by the good Doctor to create the impression that she was endorsing his cookies.  The battle royale was on after Kardashian's following alleged October 2009, tweets: "Dr. Siegal's cookie diet is falsely promoting that I'm on his diet. NOT TRUE! I would never do this unhealthy diet! I do QuickTrim!"; and "If this Dr. Siegal is lying about me being on this diet, what else are they lying about? Not cool!" In other words, there has been no Kardashian cookie display, unless you count her December 2007, photo spread in Playboy or Internet well-traveled sex home video with R&B singer RayJ.

In their Complaint, the plaintiffs allege that not only are the subject tweets harmful to their reputations, but also fail to acknowledge that Kardashian is a paid spokesperson for QuickTrim. The Complaint does not accuse Kardashian of exceeding the morally acceptable limit of exclamation points in tweets. Sooner or later, "TUOL" believes the freshly minted FTC disclosure guidelines for celebrities and bloggers, as well as the "fair comment" libel defense that holds one's opinions are not actionable, will turn up in this non-precedent-setting legal battle.

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