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Reality dating shows like “The Bachelor” thrive on drama and scandal, but a VH1 Bachelor-like show called “She’s Got Game” took things a little too far. Jayceon Taylor, better known as the Grammy-nominated rapper “The Game,” is said to have gotten a bit handsy while partying with a show contestant off-camera during filming in Chicago.
The Seventh Circuit case of Rainey v. Taylor details an incident in which one of the contestants for The Game’s amorous attentions got more than she bargained for when the TV personality and rapper invited her to a suburban sports bar. Taking to a stage at the venue the rapper repeatedly lifted his date’s skirt, grabbing her and, as the court puts it, “juggled” her breasts for the entertainment of the onlookers. His date was less-then happy about the incident and complained about it to him and members of the show’s crew.
Rainey took the incident seriously and ultimately sued Taylor for sexual assault. Perhaps it would be naïve to think that a rapper whose moniker is “The Game” would take a court action seriously. The record indicates, in any event, that he did not.
While evading process for the suit Taylor trolled Rainey on social media, dodged a settlement conference, and failed to appear for trial. His attorney asked for a continuance, but the judge denied the request, calling the proffered excuse an elaborate ruse. He told the jury they could consider his failure to appear to be evidence that the testimony he would have given would have been unfavorable to him. They returned a verdict of more than a million dollars in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.
The Game got serious on appeal, challenging the denial of the continuance, the missing witness instruction, and the general weight of the evidence. Alternatively, he sought a remitter of the damages, which were no joke.
Looking into the trial judge’s reasoning, the Court of Appeals noted that the judge had called Taylor’s dentist about an alleged dental emergency that prevented him from appearing for trial. He had called them to schedule two root canals the day before the trial. The dentist couldn’t say whether the problem was new or preexisting when the appointment was made, but The Game also posted images on Snapchat hours after having made the appointment and appeared to be out partying at a club.
The Court of Appeals was less than amused by The Game’s apparent shenanigans. They granted significant deference to the trial court’s judgements, holding that the judge was well within his discretion to refuse to grant a continuance.
The argument on appeal relating to the witness instruction was woefully undeveloped with no legal authority cited, to the extent that the court held that the issue would be waived, but the court also remarked that even if it had been accepted it also clearly failed on the merits. District judges have significant discretion to decide whether to give a missing witness instruction.
Weight of evidence review requires that a new trial should only be granted when the record shows that the jury verdict resulted in a miscarriage of justice that cries out to be overturned or shocks the conscience. Suffice it to say, the court was as little concerned about the outcome as Taylor had been about attending trial.
Finally, the court held that the compensatory damages were fair and reasonable for an intentional tort and supported by the facts established at trial. The punitive damages were upheld because The Game’s actions were reprehensible, and the amount wasn’t out of the ballpark for comparable cases. The lower court’s judgments were affirmed and whatever his successes elsewhere, The Game will need to chalk this one up as a loss.