LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Did he manipulate, drug and cut off his client from the real world? Was she really the problem, and did she make all this stuff up?
We’re, of course, talking about “Britneygate” — the entertaining dispute between Britney Spears’ ex-manager and Britney Spears’ mother that’s now landed on the doorstep of a California appeals court.
In 2008, ex-manager Sam Lutfi filed a defamation lawsuit against Lynne Spears for things she wrote about him in her memoir, “Through the Storm.”
Last August, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge refused to dismiss the case. A few weeks ago, Lynne Spears appealed that decision, and on Monday, Lutfi filed papers, presenting his argument why the case should continue.
Now the Court of Appeal of the State of California gets to hear “Britneygate” and the two widely different tales of who is responsible for the singer’s collapse.
Lynne Spears claims that Lufti was a master manipulator who secretly drugged her daughter, cut off her communications and mobility, and set himself up as “gatekeeper” before he was fired.
In contrast, Lutfi says Britney’s life was already in turmoil before he got involved. His proof: Two failed marriages, losing custody of her child, shaving her head, a reckless driving arrest, drug rehab, etc.
That aspect of the case is really a sideshow, though, to the interesting legal questions.
In pressing her appeal, Lynne argues that Lutfi’s reputation was so low at the time the book was published, he’s “libel-proof” as his reputation couldn’t possibly be damaged further.
Au contraire, says Lutfi’s lawyer.
In his brief to the appeals court, Lutfi points out he’s never been convicted of anything and if his reputation was so badly injured based on a series of tabloid articles, it’s a decision that can only be made by a jury. In addition, he points to the case of Howard K. Stern, who sued for defamation after being accused of having a hand in Anna Nicole Smith’s death. A judge ruled in that case that just because Stern might have been falsely accused doesn’t mean he could not be further injured from false accusations again.
The entire brief is pretty entertaining. For instance, there’s a discussion about whether accusing someone of being “evil,” a “predator,” a “fake” and a “shifty man” are “opinions” or descriptive of “acts of misconduct” that are actionable as libel. There’s also an argument submitted by Lutfi that Lynne Spears is engaging in bigotry because of his ethnicity.