The Most Important Celebrity Lawsuits Through the Years

by Jessica Hickam
Nov 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. ET

The lifestyles of the rich and famous can sometimes get sadly complicated. It isn't all red carpet parties and luxury mansions. The cost of living that high-profile lifestyle can be a steep one, especially when it leads to lawsuits. A lot of your favorite celebrities have seen the inside of a courtroom.

Although many, like Taylor Swift and Kate Middleton, find themselves in court battling for justice, others, like Michael Jackson and Lindsay Lohan, find themselves battling for their reputations.

Right or wrong, these celebrities took to the courts to fight in sweeping legal battles that didn't just make headlines, they also made history. They have defined the expectations for the music and entertainment industry for everyone, including paparazzi, producers and even on-set drivers.

Here are the most important celebrity-involved lawsuits that have lived on and created change or sometimes just lived on because the road to justice is a long and tedious journey, even for celebrities.

1 /13: Janice Dickinson vs. Bill Cosby

1/13 :Janice Dickinson vs. Bill Cosby

In late November 2017, former supermodel Janice Dickinson was, according to The Hollywood Reporter, able to proceed with a renewed defamation case against Bill Cosby, with a majority of her older lawsuit still in use. A California court of appeals also ruled that she could pursue legal recourse against Cosby's lawyer, Marty Singer, for defamation. 

The lawsuit stems from Dickinson coming forward in early 2017 with allegations that Cosby drugged and raped her in the 1980s. So, Singer, acting in the interests of Cosby, "sent demand letters that asserted that Dickinson's story was 'fabricated and is an outrageous defamatory lie.' Further, Singer threatened to sue Good Morning America if the ABC show proceeded with a planned segment with Dickinson. The following day, Singer issued a public statement again repeating that Dickinson's story of rape was a lie and different than what she had written in her own autobiography," according to THR.

THR further reports that "Cosby brought a motion to strike her complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute, which provides early recourse for individuals targeted for First Amendment activity. After Cosby brought the motion and arguments were made, Dickinson attempted to amend her complaint to add Singer as a co-defendant. The trial judge wouldn't allow this," but the original ruling was slapped down by another judge, allowing Dickinson's case to proceed.

2/13 :Ashley Judd & Rose McGowan vs. Harvey Weinstein

New York Times exposé published in early October of 2017 detailed three decades of numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein, one of the most influential men in Hollywood. Those included claims by Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, both of whom say they were targeted by Weinstein in 1997.

Judd first went public with her accusations in 2015, telling Variety for its Power of Women issue that an unnamed Hollywood mogul had asked her for a "meeting" in his hotel room and then tried to make her massage him and watch him shower. In the New York Times piece, Judd finally admitted that man was Weinstein, telling the paper that she wondered at the time, "How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?" and that she "said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask. It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining."

That same year, Weinstein settled a sexual harassment claim from Rose McGowan. The settlement was undisclosed at the time, but the Times now reports he paid her $100,000 to "avoid litigation and buy peace." McGowan chose not to comment for the Times' article, but after it was published, she tweeted a call for allies to stand up for the myriad women now accusing Weinstein of harassment and assault.

Late in October 2017, The Weinstein Company announced that Weinstein had been fired after more than a third of its all-male board stepped down and many of Weinstein lawyers and close advisers, including sexual assault advocate Lisa Bloom, began distancing themselves from him. No charges have been filed against him as of this writing.

3 /13: Kesha vs. Dr. Luke

3/13 :Kesha vs. Dr. Luke

The saga of Kesha versus Dr. Luke is a long and sad tale of lawsuit after lawsuit. But the most notable accusation took place in October 2014 when Kesha claimed the music producer raped her twice while also using his position to "intimidate and torment" her. Since then, Kesha has filed motions and suits in an attempt to get out of her contract with Dr. Luke and Sony music. She has further claimed that Sony had knowledge of Dr. Luke's alleged abuse. Though she just recently began releasing new music under her contract, the lawsuits between her and Dr. Luke are still ongoing.

4 /13: CBS vs. the Federal Communications Commission

4/13 :CBS vs. the Federal Communications Commission

Oh, the infamous wardrobe malfunction of the 2004 Super Bowl. Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s bustier, revealing her boob to the world. What followed was a lawsuit filed by CBS that took a whopping seven years to be settled.

The FCC levied a fine of $550,000 against CBS for nudity during a public broadcast and lack of preparedness by the network. CBS argued the FCC was being inconsistent and had overlooked similar if not worse things in the past. Ultimately, the court sided with CBS, and Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are now bigger stars than ever.

5 /13: Kate Middleton vs. Closer magazine

5/13 :Kate Middleton vs. Closer magazine

Back in 2012, French magazine Closer published topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, which they snapped without her knowledge while she was sunbathing at a private villa. The royal family sued the magazine, and the dispute was finally settled at the beginning of September 2017. TMZ reports a judge ordered Closer to pay $119,000 in damages while the editor and owner are also responsible for paying $53,000 each in fines.

6 /13: Erin Andrews vs. Michael David Barrett & Marriott

6/13 :Erin Andrews vs. Michael David Barrett & Marriott

In 2008, Michael David Barrett stalked ESPN anchor Erin Andrews to a hotel in Nashville where he filmed her through a peephole while she was naked, later uploading the video to the web. Andrews kept her lawsuit simple and direct; she went after Barrett and the owner of the specific Marriott hotel location that failed to protect her privacy. The court split the blame — 51 percent to Barrett and 49 percent to the hotel — and Andrews won a massive victory for women. She was awarded $55 million in 2016. 

7 /13: Padma Lakshmi vs. Teamsters

7/13 :Padma Lakshmi vs. Teamsters

Lakshmi filed a lawsuit against Boston Teamsters after they were reportedly verbally abusive during Top Chef filming in 2014. Lakshmi claimed the union drivers were "raining down racist, sexist and homophobic threats and slurs as staffers came to and left the set." Specifically, she said they screamed at her, "You bitch! You slut! We're gonna get you!" The teamsters were reportedly picketing on the set because they were upset the show had hired nonunion drivers. On Aug. 15, 2017, the Teamsters accused of harassment were found not guilty according to the Associated Press. Though the judge seemed to recognize that harsh language was used, it was not enough to convict the men of a crime.

8 /13: Keira Knightley vs. Daily Mail

8/13 :Keira Knightley vs. Daily Mail

Keira Knightley has always fielded criticism over her body (remember when they photo edited her boobs for the King Arthur poster), but in 2007 Daily Mail went a step further, alleging she was to blame for the death of an anorexic teen. the Mail said Knightley misled the public by denying she had an eating disorder, leading to a teen's death. Though the judgment in Knightley’s favor was small — just $6,000, which she donated to charity — the precedent was set that this particular kind of shaming wouldn’t be tolerated.

9 /13: Lindsay Lohan vs. Grigor Balyan, overaggressive photographer

9/13 :Lindsay Lohan vs. Grigor Balyan, overaggressive photographer

In 2010 a celebrity photographer claimed he was injured when the car carrying Lindsay Lohan sped away outside a Hollywood club, injuring his foot. The lawsuit ignited the age-old battle between stars and the paparazzi, but Lohan settled the dispute out of court according to TMZ

10 /13: Jennifer Lawrence & others vs. Google

10/13 :Jennifer Lawrence & others vs. Google

When someone leaked nude photos of almost 100 celebrities, he messed with the wrong men and women. Jennifer Lawrence was just one of the women who filed charges against the culprit, who ultimately pled guilty and went to prison. The shocking part was the legal battles the victims had to wage against websites who refused to pull the images down. One porn site claimed Lawrence didn’t hold the copyright to the images since they weren’t selfies — this despite the fact that they were stolen from her personal iCloud account. Through a shared lawyer, more than a dozen women then took on Google, threatening a $100 million dollar suit if they didn’t act faster to pull down the images from all Google-owned and -hosted sites.

11 /13: Sofía Vergara vs. Nick Loeb

11/13 :Sofía Vergara vs. Nick Loeb

A complex legal case was filed in 2015 when Sofía Vergara’s ex, Nick Loeb, sued for custody of two female embryos the couple had frozen in 2013. Vergara’s camp argued both parties reportedly agreed not to implant the embryos without consent on both sides. Loeb claimed he always intended to see the embryos brought full term and that he would waive any of Vergara’s parental obligations. After the case was thrown out, Loeb refiled in 2017 in Louisiana, most likely because the state has strict laws protecting embryos. But a judge dismissed the case, saying since the embryos were created in California, Lousiana courts hold no sway.

12 /13: Everybody vs. the Fyre Festival social media influencers

12/13 :Everybody vs. the Fyre Festival social media influencers

The story of the ill-fated Fyre Festival is a sordid tale. Basically, a bunch of wealthy people paid a ton of money to attend what was billed as the most exclusive, luxurious music festival on the planet. In reality, it was anything but luxurious, and the festival shut down after one day.

A $100 million dollar class-action suit was quickly filed against the organizers, but soon after, another was filed against celebrities who acted as social media “Fyre starters” in advance of the event. Celebs like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski, were all paid to promote the festival. A law professor told Fortune there is precedent for the charges, and though the case is still in court, if it goes against the celebrities, it could have a lasting impact on celebrity endorsements.

13 /13: Taylor Swift vs. David Mueller

13/13 :Taylor Swift vs. David Mueller

Radio DJ David Mueller allegedly groped Taylor Swift at a fan meet-and-greet in 2013 and then tried to sue the superstar for cash when he lost his job over the sexual assault. Mueller claimed the contact was inadvertent, but Swift testified, saying, "It was a definite grab. A very long grab."

She countersued Mueller for a symbolic $1 because she wanted the trial to serve as an "example to other women." In a championing moment during the trial, Mueller's lawyer asked Swift how she felt about Mueller losing his job over the encounter to which Swift responded, "I’m not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault." She added, "Here we are years later, and I'm being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions — not mine." Swift won the suit in August 2017.