After eight days of testimony, a California jury decided on Friday that Courtney Love should not be held liable for a tweet directed at her former attorney, Rhonda Holmes. The lawsuit is considered to be a trailblazing case as it is believed to be the first trial in a U.S. courtroom involving allegations of defamation on the Twitter platform. Love retained Holmes in 2009 to handle fraud allegations against the executors of Kurt Cobain’s estate. After the relationship between Love and Holmes deteriorated, the rockstar tweeted about Holmes who in turn sued for defamation claiming the tweet hurt her reputation.
The court found that the attorney was a limited-purpose public figure because of her involvement with a celebrity client and thus Holmes was burdened with demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the statement was made with actual malice. Actual malice, sometimes referred to a Constitutional malice, was defined in the the landmark 1964 lawsuit New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, as knowledge that the statement was false or reckless disregard for the truth. Love contended that the tweet as intended to be sent as a direct message and when she learned it was tweeted to the public, she quickly deleted the comment. Love further testified that she believed the tweet to be true when she sent it. The jury ultimately concluded that Holmes did not meet her burden of proof in this case.