What’s a Bieber to do?
By Alison Parker
Reviewed by Jennifer Williams
Did he or didn’t he?–this is a question many Justin Bieber fans have been asking ever since allegations surfaced that he fathered a love child with 20-year-old fan Mariah Yeater. The drama started when Yeater filed a paternity lawsuit seeking support from Bieber, although Bieber claims that he has “never met the woman” and that the allegations that he and Yeater engaged in consensual unprotected sex backstage after an October 25, 2010 concert are completely false.
While it remains unknown whether the judge will order a paternity test or not, based off the two completely divergent accounts of what happened, someone has got to be lying–and there are valid reasons for either to lie. Bieber has it all–he’s a young, good-looking multimillionaire megastar with a virtually untarnished image. He has a beautiful actress/singer girlfriend of 8 months, Selena Gomez, and is adored by women of all ages–of course he will deny the allegations in order to protect his image. Yeater, on the other hand, also has motivations to lie–she dropped out of a Las Vegas high school after 10th grade and has just been charged with assault and battery of her ex-boyfriend. Not to mention the fact that she just gave birth to an illegitimate child. Needless to say, her future prospects don’t look too bright. If she were able to get child support from Bieber, she would have essentially hit the jackpot. These allegations have arguably put Bieber’s reputation in question with some. If it turns out that Yeater is lying, would Bieber have a valid lawsuit against her based off her false accusations?
It turns out he may–Bieber could sue Yeater for defamation, which under California law, is “a publication of a statement of fact that is false, unprivileged, has a natural tendency to injure or which causes special damage and the defendant’s fault in publishing the statement amounts to at least negligence.” The standard for proving defamation is different for a private citizen than it is for a super-celeb like Bieber. A public figure like Bieber has to show that the defendant acted with actual malice–i.e., that the defendant knew that the statements were false or recklessly disregarded their falsity. Proving actual malice is where the situation could get a bit tricky. Let’s say hypothetically that Bieber and Yeater did have sex, but that Yeater did not get pregnant as a result; instead, the child’s father is someone else who Yeater had sex with around the same time frame. This would give Yeater reason to believe that Bieber was, or could have been, the father of the child–it would be difficult to show actual malice here because there is no indication that she knew she was lying or recklessly disregarded the falsity of her accusation. On the other hand, if it is proven that Bieber and Yeater never had sex, it seems that the statement was undoubtedly false and the actual malice standard will likely be met.
Also, some defamation plaintiffs have to show actual injury as a result of the statements, which is another element that Bieber would have to prove unless the court considered the statements to be defamation per se. Defamation per se means the statement would be considered injurious on its face without regard to its damaging impact. It is arguable that the idea that a 16 year old would illegitimately father a love child after an unprotected romp session post-concert would be defamatory on its face. If the judge decided that it was, Bieber would not have to show the damage of the statement.
It seems obvious that if Bieber did decide to sue Yeater, it certainly wouldn’t be for money, but to send an important message–all too often we read in tabloids about some hot shot actor accused of cheating on his wife with some stripper. Or in this case, that a hot shot pop star is accused of impregnating some random fan. Often, it is assumed, or even certain, that these women fabricated their stories out of desperation for the spotlight, or in Yeater’s case, for a big pay-off. Suing one of these crazies would send a stern message that this behavior will not be tolerated any longer–perhaps then these women will cease trying to garner media attention based on lies.