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Rihanna vs the Bodyguard

‘Nauseatingly offensive’

In a move away from normal mainstream media concerning ‘Ri Ri’ and her hit music, or love life, reports are surfacing that she is being sued by her former body guard Geoffrey Keating, for defamation, for comments made about him which are described as ‘nauseatingly offensive’, by means of an email that Rihanna sent about him last year.

In his claim, Mr Keating claims that Rihanna defamed him in an email sent in July 2013, to both him and his wife, and that furthermore the same/similar allegations were made against Mr Keating in a phone call between Rihanna and his sister, again in June 2013.

As is normal in such proceedings that concern an individual based outside of the jurisdiction in which the claim is brought, Mr Keating’s lawyers successfully obtained a procedural application, on a without notice basis, to serve the proceedings on Rihanna in the USA. On this basis, unless Rihanna challenges the jurisdiction of the Irish Courts, the battle field for this claim will be Ireland.

Interestingly, it seems as though the offensive comments complained of were only received by Mr Keating’s wife and his sister. In England, such a low number of recipients could cause a problem when seeking to prove publication of the defamatory comments, which is one of the main factors required to show the extent to which one person’s reputation was damaged by the comments complained of. However, in Ireland the position is slightly different.  In Ireland, it appears only necessary to show that one person received the communication and that their opinion of the subject was lowered as a result. Publication will become more active and relevant when damages are considered by the Court. Given that Mr Keating is claiming both damages and an apology from Rihanna, publication is likely to come into play later on in the case. However, on the face of it, Mr Keating’s sister and his wife having received the defamatory comments is more than enough to bring a claim against Rihanna. Let’s hope her legal team are ready for the fight, as according to Mr Keating’s lawyers, they definitely are.

John Spyrou

Head of Internet, Media and Sports Law