Tom Cruise's $50M Defamation Suit Over Suri Abandonment Claim: What Are His Chances of Winning? (INSIDE STORY)
Criticize his acting career, his love life, or even his role in controversial religion Scientology. But don't pan Tom Cruise's parenting skills.
Cruise filed a defamation suit against Bauer Publishing Company, demanding $50 million in damages over cover stories — printed by the corporation's Life & Style and In Touch celebrity tabloids — that claim he "abandoned" his six-year-old daughter, Suri.
The case, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, centers on two covers that included images Cruise's daughter: a July 31 issue of Life & Style with the words "Suri In Tears, Abandoned by Her Dad" splashed across it; and a Oct. 1 issue of In Touch that read, "Abandoned by Daddy."
"Tom is a caring father who dearly loves Suri," Cruise's attorney Bert Fields said in a statement after the filing. "To say he has 'abandoned' her is a vicious lie. To say it in lurid headlines with a tearful picture of Suri is reprehensible."
But if the case heads to court, a win won't be easy for Cruise — at least in part because of his A-list status.
"The defamation laws are different as to individuals and celebrities [because] there’s a higher legal standard that’s in place ... for public figures or celebrities," Stuart Slotnick, business litigation partner at national law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, told Celebuzz.
Cruise would have to "prove that the publisher acted with intentional malice — otherwise known as constitutional malice — which [means] it was intentionally meant to hurt him and to damage him," Slotnick said.
If Cruise's legal team can prove the publisher acted with intentional malice, then they have to make a case for damages.
"He needs to specify what damages there have been to him and...he would need to bring in actual proof that the damages [were] a result of these publications," explained Slotnick. "For example, if he says, 'I had a deal in place and I was going to make $15 million to make a movie. But as soon as the articles came out, I was told we can't hire you because you abandoned your daughter.' [That would be] directly linked to his damages. [But] it's unlikely that he would be able to prove damages of $50 million or anything close to that."
But regardless if Cruise is viewed positively or negatively, his Hollywood notoriety won't help his case in court. "Seeing that he’s one of the A-list celebrities in this country and in the world," adds Slotnick, defamation "may be difficult to prove at trial."
But Slotnick suggested Cruise isn't actually after an award of $50 million (In fact, his lawyer has said any money recovered from the lawsuit will be donated to charity). Instead, Cruise is hoping this case will broadcast a message to the media. "Tom Cruise is clearly not starting litigation for money," he said. "It's a deterrent to other publications from focusing on him and gossip-like statements. [He] trying to send a message to tabloids that if they invade his personal space and they cross a line, that they're going to get sued."