16 and Pregnant’s Kristina Head’s lawsuit against Starcasm dismissed, court orders her to pay attorneys’ fees plus sanctions

16 and Pregnant Kristina Robinson Head lawsuit against Starcasm Star magazine and Perz Hilton dismissed

A Texas district court judge has ordered 16 and Pregnant Season 4 cast member Kristina Head (formerly Kristina Robinson) to reimburse Starcasm’s parent company Chicory Media, LLC for attorneys’ fees incurred in the course of successfully defending Kristina’s defamation lawsuit, which was dismissed on July 12, 2013 under the Texas anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute designed to protect those exercising their freedom of speech in regards to a matter of public concern. In addition, the court imposed a $10,000 sanction against Kristina, an option permitted under the statute “to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions.”

The lawsuit stemmed from a Starcasm.net article Chicory Media published on March 6, 2012 reporting public Facebook comments made by the mother of Kristina’s deceased fiance John Todd Hight, Jr. after he drowned while swimming off Galveston beach on April 30, 2011.

The article was published less than two weeks after the trailer for 16 & Pregnant Season 4 was released by MTV featuring Kristina mourning the loss of her fiance and stating, “My fiancé passed away. I just remember being pulled ashore, looking around, and him not being there.”

At the root of Kristina’s claims, filed by attorney George G. Lake of Marshall, Texas, was the assertion that not only was Kristina “not a public figure for purpose of the issue addressed by the republished statements and article published by Starcasm” but that Starcasm (as well as co-defendants Star magazine, who published an article on the same Facebook post a couple weeks later, and Perez Hilton who then did his own piece about it on) “is not a media defendant due to the nature of their publication, and the issue addressed was a private issue.” (Those quotes are from Kristina’s filing.)

Our response included, but was not limited to:

Texas law recognizes that a publisher which distributes content online rather than in print is nonetheless a media defendant.

Because Chicory Media, a media defendant, reported on a matter of public concern regarding a public figure, Chicory Media qualifies for protection from an action for defamation pursuant to the TCPA [Texas Citizens Participation Act].

Robinson’s Original Petition alleges no more than that the Article accurately reported the content of Tina Hight’s Facebook posts regarding her deceased son and unidentified members of Robinson’s family. … The Article includes no editorial comment stating that Tina Hight’s Facebook posts were true or false and placed no value judgment on them. Instead, Chicory Media merely reported that Tina Hight had made the Facebook posts, which is an evidentiary fact admitted by Robinson and Robinson does not dispute that Chicory Media accurately reported and quoted them.

Particularly given the popularity of and public interest in “16 and Pregnant,” and Robinson’s willingness to voluntarily inject herself, her pregnancy and the death of her fiancé Hight into the public before millions of viewers and readers, Chicory Media, as a media entity, had the right to accurately report Tina Hight’s Facebook posts without fear of a reprisal by a SLAPP in the form of a defamation lawsuit.

Accordingly … Chicory Media’s statements are substantially true and as a matter of law cannot be the basis of a defamation action, warranting dismissal.

In this case, a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that Robinson’s lawsuit is premised upon Chicory Media’s speech about a matter of public concern involving a public figure, a participant in the “16 and Pregnant” reality show who voluntarily caused both herself and the death of her fiancé to be of interest and concern to the general public. Further, under Texas law, Chicory Media’s report is substantially true because Chicory Media accurately reported Tina Hight’s accusations. In addition, the defamatory sting is not “of or concerning” Robinson so as to provide a predicate for a defamation per se action. Accordingly, as a matter of law, Robinson cannot meet her burden of proving a prima facie case by clear and specific evidence.

Dismissal of the Original Petition pursuant to the TCPA is appropriate and will further the purpose of the TCPA because it will safeguard the constitutional right of Chicory Media to speak freely on matters of public concern and at the same time protect the rights of persons to file meritorious lawsuits.

A Texas District Court judge agreed with us and granted our motion to dismiss Kristina’s complaint with prejudice on July 12, 2013. After that ruling, we filed a petition to be reimbursed for our attorneys’ fees, as merited when a case is dismissed under the Texas anti-SLAPP statute. In addition to awarding Chicory Media our attorneys’ fees plus imposing the $10,000 sanction, the court also awarded American Media, Inc. (Parent company of Star magazine) their attorneys’ fees plus a $25,000 sanction, and awarded Perez Hilton Management, Inc. their attorneys’ fees plus a $20,000 sanction.

In addition, the court determined that if Kristina decides to file an appeal and it is unsuccessful, she will owe each of the three media defendants an additional $25,000 each. If she files a Petition for Review with the Supreme Court of Texas that is not granted, she will owe an additional $10,000 to each defendant. If the Supreme Court of Texas grants her Petition for Review but the appeal is unsuccessful, Kristina will owe each defendant an additional $25,000.

Throughout the proceedings we felt confident that we were within our First Amendment rights to speak out on this matter of public concern, and we feel vindicated by the court’s unambiguous ruling in the case. We also feel vindicated by the court awarding Chicory Media legal costs (as well as the additional $10,000 sanction), and we plan to aggressively and relentlessly pursue recuperating those expenses using every avenue available under Texas law.

Chicory Media would like to thank our lead attorneys in this case, Phillip J. Zisook and Brian D. Saucier of Deutsch, Levy & Engel, Chartered of Chicago, Illinois, as well as our local counsel, Paul L. Sadler of Henderson, Texas. Though it was an unfortunate situation, it was a real comfort having an experienced legal team with a full understanding of the law and its application throughout the process.

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  • ThaVoiceoftheVoiceless

    Either way, she’s out of luck.

  • effie

    Wow you guys are assholes. Congrats!

    • ThaVoiceoftheVoiceless

      How??? They won the lawsuit, so they have every right ask for reimbursement for lawyer fees.

      • awoman

        My personal issue isn’t with the lawyers’ fees, but the sanctions are a bit much for a corporation to ask of a down trodden teen mother. I mean, the message is already there, you can’t sue on this and win. The sanctions? They already won and got their lawyers fees (which who knows how much that was!). I can understand them putting them on future litigation, but the current sanctions are bs and icing that those expensive lawyers were able to weasel into the deal.

        • JJ

          We don’t know what all happened with this, or how much money she asked to settle. She could have come in with guns blazing demanding a $1 million for all we know. I know a bit about these kinds of cases, and the legal fees they asked for in court were probably not the total amount they paid over the course of the case (it probably excludes preliminary things like letters and phone calls over threats and monetary demands,) so the sanctions probably help out with making up the difference. Even if they are truly on top of all the expenses incurred, the sanctions are put in place by lawmakers to prevent these kinds of meritless lawsuits from happening, and if I’m not mistaken, these are default sanctions for a frivolous first amendment case in Texas. What I mean by that is that this probably wasn’t a d!ck move on the part of their lawyers, but is part of the statute. If you notice, Starcasm’s sanctions are much less than the other companies, which means that they probably asked for a lot less in fees than the other companies. I don’t think Starcasm is actually a big corporation, either. They don’t seem to be as big as the other two, and it may have substantially hurt them to put up this fight.

    • Kelly

      Hey, she put herself out there. If she didn’t want any articles written about her, perhaps she shouldn’t have gone on the show to begin with.

    • DM

      She’s the one that filed the lawsuit in the first place…

    • What?

      Do understand how the legal system works? Most civil lawsuits are dismissed just like this case, otherwise everyone could sue everyone over every little thing and entire court system would fall apart. The reason why she has to pay costs is because she is one that filed a ridiculous, without merit, lawsuit. The entire point of making the opposing side pay for costs is to prevent people from filing stupid lawsuits just because they can. If she hired a competent attorney they would have warned her about this and explained that appearing on a reality television show opens you up to public attention.

      Then again this girl did not come off as very intelligent on her 16 and Pregnant episode. Obviously she had some trashy family drama on facebook, which sucks but to file a lawsuit against media organizations talking about it is ridiculous. It’s very sad about what happened to her baby’s father but you can’t just file multiple lawsuits for stupid reasons in an attempt to get money.

    • Leslie

      If you ever get on the receiving end of a frivolous lawsuit, you’ll probably change your mind about who’s an asshole. Maybe they’re all assholes, but she’s the one who filed the lawsuit and forced the defendants to pay for a defense. The only people who got enriched here were the lawyers, but it’s nice to see that the judge found it necessary to show her exactly what her actions caused. You can’t just sue because you feel entitled to something, there has to be a solid legal reason why you have the right to sue.

  • Jess

    Lol I’m sorry but what a dumbass. What did she think was going to happen? She signed up for an mtv show, of course there will be articles written about her. She just got hit in the face with reality.

  • Sam

    Wow. This girl is going to be paying this off for a long time!

    • Jane

      No she won’t. Those girls get paid. Amber Portwood was making 280,000 a year before she went to jail.

      • Kelly

        Amber was also on teen mom, kristina isn’t. She was only on 16 and pregnant.

      • DM

        No they don’t. Amber got that much money from Teen Mom, that’s an entirely different contract from 16 & Pregnant. According to girls who have appeared on the show, the Non Teen Mom 16 & Pregnant girls get $5,000 for filming their one episode, and their baby daddies get $1,000. That’s it.

        • Wow, that sucks for how much they end up being out there forever. Shows how desperate some of them are that don’t even need the cash.. look at your life.

      • Justsayin

        You’re out of your mind if you think the girls who are only on 16 and pregnant get even a small tiny PORTION of what the Teen Mom girls make (and 280,000 seems a bit high of a claim), Kristina most likely blew through all her 16 & preggers money already. Probably why she’s trying to find someone to sue.

  • My thoughts

    This is yet another example of you cannot sue over whatever you want and expect to win… She got a huge reality check.. Its sad but people abuse the court system way too much and this was one of those times where it was abused…(yes it was abused because she assumed she was entitled to privacy when she openly made her personal life public and decided like a kid she suddenly was owed something when she wasn’t) Posting on social media where it is public doesn’t make it untouchable.. Kids don’t understand you post something publicly on the internet mostly when you have put yourself out there to be on a tv show… This kind of still will and does get put in the media.. . I understand she was upset because she lost someone she loved but again she put it on MTV she decided to make this public… .. She cant turn around and then decide wait i change my mind.. Whats done is done… I hope she learned something from this and that every action has a consequence and in her case its an expensive one..

    • spottedgiraffe

      If only states would start charging women that make false claims about domestic abuse. Jenelle would finally be out of our hair for good.

      • Dani

        Let’s add false pregnancy scares so we can rid of Farrah while we’re at it.

        • And Nikkole. Faked her whole pregnancy. REALLLY? Sad.

  • jessica

    Dumb girl!

  • W

    Maybe the media companies had the better and more expensive lawyers… ? In my personal opinion: To want and take more money from her than the lawyer costs would be disgusting – after all she is young, poor, has two innocent children… and the articles were quite hurtful to her, I guess. But to expect compassion from Perez and Co. might be delusional ?

    • ThaVoiceoftheVoiceless

      She should have never filed the lawsuit in the first place.

      • W

        Maybe they should not have written these articles either … These were not so funny: citation: “… Suggested (… ) Death may not have been an accident…”

        • ThaVoiceoftheVoiceless

          She chose to put her personal life out there on MTV, so she shouldn’t have been surprised of the outcome. If she didn’t like it, she should have never chose to be on 16 & Pregnant.

        • sigh

          Starcasm never accused her of anything. The only reason the article was written was because her deceased boyfriend’s mother was posting public things on her facebook about how she thought his death wasn’t accidental. And it was right around the time that Kristina’s 16 and Pregnant episode aired. Obviously, Starcasm thought it was of interest to write about it, as did other Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant type sites that she didn’t mention in her lawsuit.

          This site writes about 16 and Pregnant and the Teen Mom girls all of the time, why wouldn’t they write about how her boyfriend’s mom was accusing Kristina’s family of foul play after MTV showed her talking about his death multiple times?

          What’s next? Is Nikkole going to personally sue every site that talks about her fake pregnancy? Is Kail going to sue because people said not nice things about her wedding dress? Once you sign on for REALITY TV show a lot of your privacy goes away and yes, people will say mean things about you in the internet. That’s why Kristina’s lawsuit was dismissed. She should have just dealt with her family drama privately.

    • Leslie

      You mean better more expensive lawyers that are necessary to defend themselves against a frivolous lawsuit? Yes, they probably did. Were they supposed to use incompetent lawyers to be fair to Kristina?

  • teeheebooboo

    Wow… sad. If you can’t bother to adjust the privacy settings of your facebook page before you sign up for a national television show, that’s your own problem.

  • spottedgiraffe

    Wow Kristina is screwed. The fact that a show about knocked up 16 year olds is considered public CONCERN is pathetic though. Concern? lol okay America whatever word you want to use to justify being nosy.

    • Dani

      Perhaps they should of used the word “interest”.

  • L

    I agree that Starcasm is in the right in this situation and she had no right to sue for allegations made by someone else that were made public by the mother of the deceased and then written about by Starcasm, Perez Hilton, etc. But I seriously don’t feel comfortable with the way she was put in SO MUCH DEBT for suing…she was probably trying to clear her name and got bad legal advice. This girl is a single mother with 2 young children, and I just wish that the judgment had awarded the defendants court costs and attorney fees and nothing else. I can’t imagine incurring that much debt in one fail swoop for something so worthless. She now owes $55,000 to a slew of probably multimillion dollar companies, and that doesn’t seem right at all. If this case would’ve even reached a reasonable settlement, I would’ve been all for the verdict because I think our society is overly litigious but this is too much…WAY too much.

    • Dani

      They hit back hard to deter people from other frivolous lawsuits.

      • Jane

        I understand the reason. I just don’t agree with it.

      • ….

        Don’t even bother. Some people do not understand how the civil court system works. But what they should be wondering is why someone that wants total privacy allowed herself, her life story and her son’s birth to be on aired on TV. If Kristina wants to blame someone for the attention she’s received it should be put on her son’s grandmother and MTV.

        And honestly, why the hell are they on this site, reading and commenting if they are so morally against internet sites reporting about gossip? I’m sure they wouldn’t defend Jenelle or Farrah if either of them filed a lawsuit against this site for writing about them.

        • L

          I am fully aware of how the civil court system works. Did my post in any way imply that I didn’t agree with the judgment? No. I disagree with the outrageous sum of money this person has to pay because some shyster lawyer took a case that was obviously lacking in any real merit.

          I don’t know this girl at all, but from what I saw on her episode, she looked like she was pretty poor and that this would be a substantial blow to her. It’s not like making a real celebrity pay $55,000 to “set an example of them” which would be nothing for most of them. This is a woman with two kids and maybe you see no problem with it, who cares. I do. Why don’t you try actually READING my post. I 100% agreed with the verdict. The only thing I have a problem with is the sum of money that the judge ordered her to pay knowing she is NOT a celebrity and doesn’t have that kind of cash just lying around to pay off million dollar companies to prove a point. Of course she should have lost the case because she allowed her drama to be broadcast on National Television, but that doesn’t mean that I think a judgment of $55k plus all court costs and attorney fees was anywhere near reasonable. Even $10k plus court costs and attorney fees would have been, but $55k? What planet are you living on where a normal person can actually feasibly pay that kind of sum? So who suffers now? The kids. Which you’re clearly fine with.

          • Leslie

            She should have been aware of the consequences of having a defamation lawsuit dismissed. The law states very clearly that the consequences of filing an unmerited lawsuit is the legal fees of the defendants plus possible sanctions. It’s like if you borrowed money to gamble because you thought you might hit it big, and you didn’t. You still owe the money you gambled with that wasn’t yours in the first place. Her attorney must have been nuts, and it sucks that he/she doesn’t owe some of this money, because he/she probably convinced her they would win this ridiculous gamble.

            • L

              What is she like 19 years old? Did you know that much about civil court when you were a teen? She was clearly ill advised by her attorney, who is the one that should have warned her of all of this. I don’t blame Starcasm or any of the media companies for it either..I’m just saying that I personally think that’s too much and she’s obviously not the brightest bulb in the box anyway and it seems that the lawyer she hired took advantage of that.

              • Leslie

                If I were gonna sue somebody, even at age 19, I would do research on my own to make sure I understood what my lawyer was telling me and to understand the risks I was undertaking. But that’s just me.

                • L

                  Unless you are fluent in legalese, the language used in the law are ambiguous and intentionally difficult to understand. That is why people hire lawyers.

                  • Leslie

                    She probably has grounds to sue her lawyer. It’s a sad situation, no doubt about that, and her lawyer had the responsibility to let her know what was up.

              • Cheermom_1975

                You never know- her lawyer may have advised her against this lawsuit. At the end of the day, the lawyer has to do what she wants and has to try to represent her as best as possible.

    • christee

      This may be an irrelevant point, but isn’t she married to her second child’s father?

      • L

        I believe they are separated.

    • Leslie

      I’m sure the sanctions are just a drop in the bucket of the legal fees these companies incurred. Between the three of them I’m sure they spent well over $100,000, maybe more, defending themselves. Lawsuits are no joke, and lawyers are no joke, and Kristina was probably not properly advised, but these companies were forced to defend themselves. It’s sad that she owes so much money, but she brought it on herself. She was probably hoping they would get scared and settle out of court.

      • L

        You are probably right about that. Just hate to see that much debt incurred just because of a stupid lawsuit that a knowledgeable attorney could have told her didn’t have any merit. I guess she’s going to have to learn this one the hard way.

    • Leslie

      Plus, we don’t know what all went on with this case. The judge must have put up with some serious B.S. to decide that sanctions were necessary. Judges don’t suffer foolishness kindly.

  • Dani

    Haha that’s what you get for a being a money hungry brat!

  • HoardersFan

    And how do they expect her to pay all of that? Foolishness.

    • Common sense

      I doubt that they expect to get every penny back, but a judge has determined that she owes them that money, and that is a deterrent and a warning against frivolous lawsuits clogging up the legal system.

    • DM

      That really isn’t their problem. Something thing she should have thought of before filing the suit.

  • EttySpaz

    And if she breathes in Starcasm’s direction she will owe them an additional 25,000. I know MTV pays but it don’t pay THAT good. You guys are gonna have her stripping at a skeezy joint to pay you your fee’s while she’s scrounging for loose change in the couch to feed her baby and pay the rent. Dayum Starcasm, you cold!

    • Common sense

      If her breath in their directions involves an appeal or some other legal nonsense, she deserves another $25,000 ding. I’m sure she expected a big payday over this and saw these companies as her personal piggy bank.

  • Cheermom_1975

    I wonder if she will still go through with her divorce from TJ Head since she owes so much for this stupid idea. Dang, if she does, she might be responsible for the cost of his attorney as well (very common for both parties to ask the courts during a divorce).

  • Omg I live in Henderson. I went to school with the lawyer’s sons.. crazyness. I wish they’d do the same as this to JENELLE EVANS. She needs some real life!

  • Wow

    I agree with the judgement and always thought she was a complete idiot for filing the lawsuit. The bigger idiot is the lawyer who took the case and advised her so poorly. HOWEVER, the judge should not penalize a plaintiff for exercising their right to appeal a judgement by PREDETERMINING a fine. Basically, she will be dissuaded from appealing the punitive damages awarded to the media giants (who do not need remuneration beyond attorney’s fees – seriously – she will never be able to repay them, she’s a single mom and it will destroy the life of her child as well). I find the punitive damage award outrageous and to be penalized just for exercising the right to disagree is over the top.

    This is a lesson in judgement and in getting good legal advice. What an idiot.

    • Wow

      AND she has to pay their legal fees, which will be well over $100,000 or more. This is on top of the $55,000 fine. Plus court costs. That is a lifetime for a single mom. What a shame.

  • Sara

    As much as she was an idiot to sue in the first place, I don’t think these companies deserve to get to much money from a teenage mother who doesn’t have the means to pay them.

  • fan5365

    Leave the girl alone!! Really, your going to aggressively go after the sanction! How do you sleep at night. obviously this girl has been through enough.