lawsuits

Blac Chyna Loses Her Defamation Case Against the Kardashians

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

On the heels of their big, splashy return to reality TV, the Kardashians found themselves in a Los Angeles courtroom in the last few weeks of April to finally face a $100 million defamation lawsuit filed by Blac Chyna in 2017. Chyna — whose real name is Angela White — has accused the “powerful, vindictive” family of “slut shaming her on social media” following her 2016 split from Rob Kardashian, with whom she shares a child, and of killing her E! reality show, Rob & Chyna, during its second season of filming.

“When they got my No. 1 hit show killed back in January 2017, that not only hurt me financially and emotionally, that hurt my beautiful KIDS … What they did was so wrong,” Chyna wrote on Twitter earlier this month.

The defamation trial is the latest development in years of heated legal battles between Chyna and the Kardashians. And, in a fitting ending, it all came to a close on Monday, May 2, the night of the 2022 Met Gala, when a jury reached a verdict and found that the Kardashians had not defamed Chyna or interfered in her contract with E!. Here’s what to know — and how we got here.

Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian started dating in 2016.

Chyna and Rob first confirmed their relationship in January 2016. From the start, it spelled drama for the Kardashian-Jenner family, as it overlapped with Kylie Jenner’s on-and-off relationship with the rapper Tyga, Chyna’s ex and father of her son, King. Rob and Chyna went on to hit relationship milestones at warp speed — in public, at least — announcing their engagement three months later. The two welcomed their daughter, Dream, in November 2016, and documented the ups and downs of their relationship on Rob & Chyna, which aired on E! — the network formerly home to Keeping Up With the Kardashians — from September to December of 2016. (The show included Kris Jenner and Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney Kardashian among its executive producers, and Rob and Chyna among its co-executive producers.) Throughout their time together, the couple intermittently sparked breakup speculation by deleting Instagram pictures of each other.

In December 2016, Deadline reported that E! renewed Rob & Chyna for a second season. Later that month, however, Rob announced that the couple had officially split for good: “My baby girl is 1 month old and Chyna took her and left this beautiful home I just bought for us,” he posted on Instagram. On her Instagram, Chyna confirmed she was “DONE” with the relationship, claiming that Rob “verbally abused” her on a near-daily basis. “Honestly it’s only so much a person can take,” she wrote in a since-deleted post.

Rob later posted revenge porn of Chyna, prompting her to file a restraining order.

For several months after their breakup, Rob and Chyna sparred on social media, with Rob frequently accusing Chyna of cheating on him, which Chyna repeatedly denied. Things came to a head in July 2017, when Rob posted revenge porn of Chyna to his Instagram. (The social-media platform temporarily booted him as a result.)

Chyna was subsequently granted a temporary restraining order against Rob after filing a petition that also cited an instance of physical abuse. “Revenge porn is a form of domestic abuse,” said Lisa Bloom, Chyna’s attorney at the time. An E! spokesperson told Variety that production on Rob & Chyna had been put on hold, apparently per the Kardashians’ lead: “As always, we follow the family’s lead regarding their lives and relationships, and viewers saw firsthand as the family discussed putting Rob & Chyna on hold in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians this spring,” the spokesperson said, adding that the series wasn’t on E!’s schedule and hadn’t been in production for months. While the show’s premiere enjoyed record-high cable viewership in 2016, it was panned by critics, who called it “the saddest show on television.”

The Kardashians and Chyna hit each other with back-to-back lawsuits.

In September 2017, two weeks after reaching an agreement in which Chyna dropped her domestic-abuse case against Rob, Rob and Kylie filed a lawsuit accusing Chyna of physically assaulting Rob with an iPhone cord and extorting the Kardashian-Jenner family for financial gain. The suit also claimed that Kylie incurred more than $100,000 of property damage during Chyna’s alleged rampage through her house. “Chyna’s desire to pursue a relationship and have a baby with Rob was nothing short of an outright fraud to shake down the Kardashian family without any concern for the consequences,” read the complaint. (Rob filed to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this year, saying he wanted to focus on his co-parenting relationship with Chyna.)

One month later, Chyna retaliated with a defamation lawsuit against Rob and the Kardashian family. The lawsuit, which cited Kris, Kylie, Kim, and Khloé among its defendants, claimed Chyna and her brand suffered “significant damages” from what had transpired. The suit called Rob “an abuser intent on destroying Angela White” (Rob has denied the abuse allegations) and the Kardashians “media predators” who fabricated the story of Chyna’s assault in their campaign to suspend E!’s production of Rob & Chyna, allegedly costing Chyna millions through the show and associated revenue streams. Chyna also filed a separate lawsuit centered around revenge-porn allegations against Rob, which is scheduled to go to trial in early May, according to Rolling Stone.

The Kardashians have tried to dismiss Chyna’s lawsuit, denying Chyna’s allegations.

In 2020, a judge denied the Kardashians’ request to dismiss Chyna’s defamation lawsuit. In court documents obtained by Vulture, the Kardashians insisted that Chyna had indeed “violently attacked” Rob, and that they had acted out of concern for his well-being. The papers also state that Chyna’s restraining order against Rob made it “physically impossible” for her to perform in the series, and Chyna’s agreement with E! said the network had the “option and not the obligation” to include Chyna in additional seasons. Per CBS News, Chyna rejected the Kardashians’ offer to settle the case outside of court. Michael Rhodes, an attorney for the Kardashians, continues to deny Chyna’s allegations, telling ET days before the trial: “We aren’t going to sully this process by responding to slanderous nonsense.”

The trial is already heated.

Jury selection for the trial began on April 18. According to a source for “Page Six” inside the courtroom, the Kardashian-Jenner women appeared “visibly annoyed” after a potential juror said he couldn’t remain impartial to the case because he had seen Kim’s sex tape and would be replaying it “over and over” in his head if selected. On April 19, a lawyer for the Kardashians reportedly asked the judge to ban Chyna’s mother, Tokyo Toni, from the trial after Toni engaged in an anti-Kardashian rant on Instagram Live. This week, according to TMZ, Pete Davidson, Kim’s boyfriend, was also present at the courthouse during closing arguments.

During opening statements, attorneys for both parties addressed Rob and Chyna’s alleged altercation at Kylie’s house in 2016. Per “Page Six,” Lynn Ciani, Chyna’s lawyer, argued that while Chyna admitted to damaging some of Kylie’s property during the fight — which she says began as a celebration of the show’s renewal and soured after Rob accused Chyna of cheating — Chyna never physically attacked Rob. Afterward, Ciani said Kris Jenner “falsely” told E! network executives that “Chyna beat the shit out of Rob’s face” and asked to have her removed from the show, allegedly calling Chyna “stupid” and “really ghetto” and suggesting that the network “ditch the bitch” in messages to producers. According to Rolling Stone, Ciani also claimed the Kardashian-Jenners “had a family vote” to cancel season two of Rob & Chyna. 

Meanwhile, the Kardashians’ legal team maintained Chyna had attacked Rob at Kylie’s house, and that while the Kardashians wanted to spare Rob from further abuse, they ultimately weren’t behind the cancellation. “There’s no doubt that Chyna was physical with Mr. Kardashian,” said Rhodes, who argued E! scrapped the show because Rob and Chyna’s relationship had grown too toxic to air. “There is no Rob & Chyna show unless there’s a Rob and Chyna,” Rhodes said. “Controversy does sell — but this is now verging on domestic abuse.”

Chyna testified she was “just joking” when she pressed an unloaded gun to Rob’s head.

Chyna took the witness stand on April 20, testifying that the altercation at Kylie’s house never went beyond property damage and that she’d wrapped an iPhone cord around Rob’s neck as “a joke.” Per NBC News, Chyna reiterated to jurors that the day started with a celebration over Rob & Chyna’s renewal, but things went south after Rob took her phone and accused her of cheating, adding that she smashed a gingerbread house and damaged a TV because she was “really upset.” The Kardashians’ legal team continued to press Chyna about allegations of physical violence from the night, including the incident with the cord and pressing Rob’s unloaded gun to his head. Chyna said she’d done those things as jokes after the fight died down: “I came up behind him, doing that jokingly to get his attention,” Chyna said of the iPhone cord. She claimed she grabbed Rob’s gun because he was “already messing” with it and she was “being funny” while he FaceTimed his friends. “It was not loaded,” said Chyna, per “Page Six.” “I would never shoot Rob or anyone at that. It was just joking, like, ‘HA, HA!’”

The Kardashians’ legal team asked Chyna whether the trial was a publicity stunt, which Chyna denied, claiming the whole ordeal has been “very negative” for her career. The team also questioned Chyna about a contract she signed with E!, the terms of which apparently granted her a $100,000 kill fee for Rob & Chyna and an additional $370,000 if E! scrapped the second season. Chyna confirmed she received both sums of money, but claimed she thought the fees were for filming and not cancellation and that a lawyer had signed the contract on her behalf. “Why would I sign a kill fee for my number one show?” said Chyna, per “Page Six.” “That’s my signature but I didn’t sign it.”

Kris told the court she was “traumatized” by Rob and Chyna’s 2016 altercation.

Kris Jenner testified on April 21, alleging that Chyna threatened Kylie’s life “numerous times” while Kylie was dating Tyga. Kris told jurors that Kylie and Tyga confided in her about Chyna’s “alarming” threats (Tyga allegedly told her that Chyna had threatened him with a knife while they were together) but said she kept the information “in the family” to maintain privacy. Despite Kylie and Tyga’s allegations, Kris told the court she “didn’t have much of a reaction” when she heard Rob and Chyna were dating, claiming she wanted Rob to be “happy” and that she was used to drama in the family. When questioned about her involvement in Rob & Chyna, Kris said she wasn’t “part of internal discussions” with E! and wasn’t “aware” the network had renewed the show, though the network released a public statement at the time to confirm as much. Pressed by Chyna’s legal team, Kris admitted she “might have” had a conversation with a network executive about her concerns over Rob and Chyna’s relationship, but that she ultimately wanted Chyna to “be the best version of herself.”

Kris continued her testimony on April 22, telling jurors she was “traumatized” by Chyna pulling a gun on Rob in 2016, roughly two months after Kim was robbed at gunpoint in Paris. “It’s not a joke,” Kris told the court. When Chyna’s legal team asked Kris whether she believed Chyna had attempted to murder her son, Kris responded, “I do,” adding that she believed both Rob and Chyna were under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the alleged altercation. Chyna’s legal team also asked whether Kris had sent texts to E! executives after the incident claiming Chyna “beat the shit out of Rob’s face” and asking them to “ditch the bitch,” which Kris confirmed, clarifying that she’d used “beat the shit” as a figure of speech and “bitch” out of anger. “It was not my proudest moment,” said Kris, who further confirmed she texted a showrunner a proposal to “take [Chyna] off the show and just make it Rob raising his daughter.” Kris suggested she sent the text in the heat of the moment: “This is my son that has been traumatized, and I was just trying to figure out what to do.”

Kylie testified that Chyna threatened to beat her while she was dating Tyga.

Kylie took the witness stand on Monday, testifying that Rob had told her Chyna was “trying to kill him” during the couple’s 2016 altercation. When asked by Chyna’s legal team whether she had ever been physically threatened by Chyna, Kylie recalled receiving “some threatening texts” while dating Tyga but says she assumed they were “empty” threats and didn’t report them, per Rolling Stone. Chyna “sent me a bunch of devil emojis and said something along the lines of like, ‘counting down the days’ to either beat me or I don’t know exactly what she meant,” said Kylie, who claimed the texts were on a “very old phone” and she no longer has them.

Kim and Khloé claimed they had no influence over producers’ decision to cancel Rob & Chyna.

Kim testified on Tuesday, answering questions from Chyna’s legal team about text messages she sent Rob & Chyna producers after the 2016 altercation, expressing her desire for Chyna not to appear on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. “Chyna will not be on our show. And it’s actually putting my brother in [a] bad position because he ends up crying all day saying the only reason [Chyna] showed up was because she was filming,” Kim wrote, adding that she wanted to take a break from filming KUWTK until production “figure[d] out what [they were] going to do” about the situation. Pressed by Chyna’s legal team, Kim denied that she had sent the message in an effort to kill a potential second season of Rob & Chyna. “I can’t control the content of what they film, but this is our show — why would we film with her?” Kim told the court, adding that she “really didn’t know” there were plans to film more Rob & Chyna episodes after the altercation. “[Producers] could film what they want,” Kim told the court, per “Page Six.” “We don’t have the power, as you’ve been insinuating … I can only control what I do, which is to take a break.” Meanwhile, Khloé testified about an email she sent to an E! producer after the altercation, in which she wrote that the family was considering “not moving forward with our show [KUWTK]” if theirs [Rob & Chyna] continues.” Khloé told Chyna’s legal team she “wasn’t trying to cancel anything” by sending the email, and claimed she was only concerned about Rob and Chyna’s “volatile” relationship. “What I was considering was not continuing such toxicity,” Khloé told the court. “We feel strongly about a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean [producers] will listen to us.”

Corey Gamble said he witnessed Chyna “whipping … and hitting” Rob with a phone cord.

Corey Gamble, Kris Jenner’s boyfriend, testified that he witnessed Chyna physically abusing Rob during the couple’s “hostile” 2016 altercation, and claimed he intervened to stop it. Per Insider, Gamble recounted a phone call Rob made to Kris the morning after the altercation, claiming he could hear Chyna screaming in the background. “She was telling Rob, ‘Fuck you, I’m going to kill you, you fat motherfucker,’” Gamble said, adding that he went to Kylie’s house and allegedly found Chyna screaming at Rob with a rod in her hand. Gamble claimed Chyna threw the rod down and “started whipping … and hitting” Rob with a phone cord, and that he could smell alcohol on her. Gamble told the court he tried separating the two by giving Rob his car keys and instructing him to leave the premises, and alleged that Chyna retaliated by “punching [Rob] in the back of the head” and throwing a chair in front of the car. After Rob drove away, Gamble claimed Chyna said she “wouldn’t even like this fat fucker if he wasn’t part of the family!” Gamble told the court he understood Rob and Chyna’s relationship to be “over” after the altercation.

Rob said Chyna pointed a gun to his head twice during their 2016 altercation.

Rob took the stand on Wednesday, testifying about Chyna’s alleged physical abuse during their 2016 altercation and claiming that the two got engaged as leverage for Chyna to “pitch a television show the next day.” Per BuzzFeed, Rob told the court he was at his “lowest point ever” when he started dating Chyna and ignored the “negative stuff” he heard about her — including her alleged threats against Kylie — because he “felt good with her.” Asked by Chyna’s legal team whether he loved Chyna when he proposed in March 2016, Rob said no, claiming he “supported” Chyna but that it was “never a real type of love” between them and that he “did not want to be married to someone like that.” He also testified that their 2016 altercation started out “playful” before Chyna allegedly got violent, pointing a gun to his head on two different occasions, wrapping an iPhone cord around his neck, and landing “several blows” to his face and body with a metal rod. “I didn’t think it got serious until the second gun encounter,” Rob told the court, per “Page Six,” further alleging that Chyna was on “cocaine and alcohol” at the time and “broke the door down” when he tried locking himself in a bedroom for safety. “You don’t point a gun on your fiancé’s head, whether you think it’s loaded or not,” Rob said. When Chyna’s legal team asked whether the alleged blows left him with visible bruising, Rob said they hadn’t but that the lack of marks “doesn’t mean it’s not true.” Rob told the court he considered the relationship to be over after the altercation, though he believed Chyna thought they were still engaged. Addressing a video of the two of them going out for New Year’s Eve a few weeks later, Rob claimed Chyna “forced” him out of the house despite his social anxiety and body insecurity. “I wasn’t happy. Going out of the house after she put a gun to my head. She put that on her Snapchat, but that to me isn’t happy,” Rob said. “That’s just fake.”

Producers say they canceled the show because Rob and Chyna were volatile.

Former Rob & Chyna producer Jeff Jenkins testified via Zoom that season two of the show was never green-lit because of the couple’s volatility. Adam Stotsky, former president of E! Entertainment, testified that press releases about Rob & Chyna’s renewal went out just before the couple’s 2016 altercation. Former E! executive Jeff Olde testified that the decision to cancel Rob & Chyna had not been based on pressure from the family. Emails between Olde, Kylie, and Khloé were shown to the court, in which Kylie stated she felt “very strongly” about canceling Rob & Chyna after the 2016 altercation and agreed to replace it with her own reality show, Life of Kylie. Rob & Chyna “is giving this toxic woman money and exposure she lives and breathes for and by continuing it … she will proceed with using and physically abusing my brother,” Kylie wrote to Olde, while an email from Khloé voiced concern about Rob and Chyna “tarnishing” the family’s “brand.” Another correspondence between Olde and a network colleague said the “entire family” was opposed to season two but was open to the idea of Rob and Chyna getting counseling for a Keeping Up With the Kardashians story line. Olde maintained that Kylie and Khloé’s emails didn’t influence him, calling the messages “an emotional reaction” from “protective” sisters. Per BuzzFeed, Stotsky reiterated in his testimony that the Kardashian-Jenner family didn’t “actually have the authority” to influence the network’s decision to cancel.

The Kardashians’ legal team called Rob and Chyna’s relationship “grim.”

In closing arguments, Chyna’s legal team told the court that Rob and Chyna’s 2016 altercation was not a “murderous attack” and accused the Kardashian-Jenners of “gaslighting” jurors in their testimonies, according to “Page Six.” Chyna’s team also questioned the credibility of Rob’s physical-abuse allegations against Chyna, citing the lack of marks on his body and the fact that he did not call police after the altercation. Telling jurors not to forget that the Kardashian-Jenners are a “famous family,” Chyna’s legal team said their messages to producers defamed Chyna and interfered with her contract and career, telling the court: “There is no reason that [Chyna] should still not be on TV except for what this family did to her.”

According to People, the Kardashians’ legal team argued that “the central problem in this case” was that Rob & Chyna was “never [Chyna’s] show” to begin with, but rather, “a show about a relationship” that ultimately soured. Pointing to the testimonies of former producers, the Kardashians’ team told jurors the network canceled the show because it wanted a “lighthearted romantic comedy” but that things between Rob and Chyna turned “heavy” instead. “It’s not necessarily Mr. Kardashian’s fault or [Chyna’s],” the Kardashians’ team told jurors, per “Page Six.” “For some reason, [Rob and Chyna] didn’t work … and there was a point where it became grim.”

The judge dismissed the defamation claim against Kim Kardashian.

On April 29, it was reported that the defamation claim against Kim Kardashian was dropped by the court. According to reports, Judge Gregory Alarcon ruled that “no statement” from Kim shown in court was “alleged to be defamatory” against Chyna, with the court declaring that Chyna’s attorneys had brought “no evidence” to prove Kim’s alleged defamatory actions. Chyna had been seeking $40 million in damages from Kim for defamation, and despite the ruling she is still continuing the case against the Kardashians at large. And, as pointed out by Variety, the judge only dismissed the defamation claim against Kim, not Chyna’s allegations that she had interfered with her contract.

The jury awarded no damages to Blac Chyna.

On May 2, the jury reached a verdict, coming down on the side of the Kardashians. The jury reportedly skipped two questions accidentally, but they won’t change the outcome, which cleared the Kardashians of allegations of defamation and contract interference. Chyna was awarded no damages and left the Los Angeles courthouse without giving a statement to the press.

Meanwhile, the Kardashian-Jenners were not present to hear the verdict. They were busy on the opposite side of the country … attending the Met Gala in New York City.

Blac Chyna’s attorney plans to appeal.

Following the verdict, Chyna’s attorney Lynne Ciani told the AP that she intended to appeal the decision, at least as it pertained to the “remaining questions,” though it’s unclear which cases she was talking about. However, she told journalists that, per her reading of the verdict, “the jury found that Chyna had not physically abused Rob Kardashian” and “the jury found that all four defendants had intentionally interfered with her contract with the E! Network.”

Meanwhile, attorneys for the Kardashians, Michael Rhodes and Michelle Doolin, released their own statement reacting to the verdict, telling Us Weekly that the family sent thanks to the jury and the Judge in the case. “The jury sent a clear message to Ms. White and her lawyer — I hope they are listening. Justice has prevailed.”

We will continue to update as the case progresses.

Blac Chyna Loses Her Defamation Case Against the Kardashians