White County Woman Wins $1.25M Defamation Case Against Website

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes has awarded $1.25 million to a White County woman who was the subject of a post containing defamatory comments published on the website TheDirty.com, her attorney said Friday.

Holmes ordered the website's company to pay $250,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Attorney Tré Kitchens wrote in a federal complaint filed on behalf of Malia Stewart in October 2013 that the post contained "slanderous and defamatory comments" against the married, stay-at-home mother and that she was embarrassed and humiliated by its publication.

Kitchens listed the site's operator, Hooman Karamian, who uses the name Nik Richie, and Dirty World Entertainment Recordings LLC as defendants.

In his order, Holmes wrote that evidence "proved that Stewart has been damaged by the conduct of thedirty.com." He said she has damage to her reputation and "severe emotional distress."

"The evidence established that false and defamatory allegations were published about Stewart on TheDirty.com website, that postings must be approved before they can be posted, that Stewart and her lawyer notified TheDirty.com that the posting was false and defamatory, and that TheDirty.com has refused to remove the posting," Holmes wrote.

Kitchens wrote that Stewart had tried to get the site's owners to remove the post, but was unsuccessful. In an email attached to the lawsuit, purportedly from Richie, Stewart was told, "At this time we are NO longer removing third party submissions from TheDirty.com. Stay clean!"

Richie responded to the lawsuit himself in February, asking the judge to dismiss the case against him because the court did not have jurisdiction over him. Holmes dismissed Richie without prejudice, but the case continued against Dirty World, which was doing business as TheDirty.com.

In April, Kitchens filed a motion for default judgment against the company, which was granted by Holmes after the court received no response to the complaint.

Kitchens said he has already seen Richie responding to the order online, claiming that he had already won the case. A separate posting, purportedly by an attorney, claims Kitchens was suing the wrong company.

But Kitchens said Richie hasn’t won anything and that the judgment shows the court did have jurisdiction. Kitchens said he was also willing to file another lawsuit.

"I feel confident that we’re going to continue to pursue this matter...If we need to file a lawsuit in California that’s all right, I love the coast," Kitchens said.

Attorney David S. Gingras of Phoenix, Arizona, who represents Dirty World LLC, which he said is the actual owner of the website, said in an email that it was his understanding that the company Holmes entered a judgment against was no longer in operation.
Gingras said Dirty World LLC never responded to the lawsuit because it was never actually named as a defendant.
"Whatever the reason may have been, the net effect is that Ms. Stewart has a judgment which is literally worthless. She can certainly try to collect her judgment from Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, LLC ... However, Ms. Stewart cannot enforce her judgment against TheDirty.com or the company that owns the site (Dirty World, LLC) because she never sued Dirty World, LLC and she has no judgment against Dirty World, LLC," Gingras said