Plaintiff Must Pay Cardi B's Legal Fees as Judge Upholds Victory in Back Tattoo Trial

Cardi B’s victory in a civil trial about her use of a man’s back tattoo on a mixtape cover has been upheld, and the plaintiff must pay her legal fees.

Cardi B performs on the main stage during Wireless Festival at Finsbury Park

Image via Getty/Joseph Okpako

Cardi B performs on the main stage during Wireless Festival at Finsbury Park

Cardi B’s victory in a civil trial brought against her for using a man’s tattoo on a mixtape cover has been upheld. The plaintiff must now pay her legal fees, Rolling Stone reports.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled on Wednesday that the verdict in the case, which was announced on Oct. 21, will not be overturned. The partial usage of plaintiff Kevin Brophy’s back tattoo on the cover of Cardi’s Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 tape did not depict him or portray him in a negative light, a Santa Ana jury ruled earlier this year in the $5 million lawsuit. Brophy filed a request to have the verdict overturned, which was rejected on the grounds it lacked merit and was filed too late. 

Brophy sued Cardi over the usage of his tattoo on the 2016 mixtape, claiming his likeness was misappropriated. “The untimeliness of Brophy’s Rule 50 is reason enough to deny it. But the motion also wants for substantive merit,” wrote Carney in his ruling. The jurors in the case were provided with competing evidence, and “reasons abound to sustain the jury’s verdict of not liable on all claims,” the judge said.

He ruled that the cover of the mixtape, which features Cardi in the back of a limo drinking a bottle of Corona and holding the back of a man’s head as he performed oral sex on her, depicts a model who isn’t white. Brophy, as Cardi’s former manager testified at trial, is white. 

“The jury had an ample basis for its verdict. For example, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the back tattoo on the model on the mixtape cover at issue in this suit was not sufficiently identifiable with Brophy to constitute misappropriation of his likeness or depiction in a false light," wrote Carney. "Because the model’s face is not visible, identification based on facial appearance is impossible." 

It was also pointed out that Brophy’s tattoo, which was superimposed on the back of the model on the cover, only made up a small part of the overall art. “Most importantly, Brophy’s tattoo played a minor role in what was a larger visual commentary on sexual politics," wrote Carney. "Brophy’s tattoo was but one tattoo on the back of the model, who was himself but one part of a suggestive portrayal of a man with his head between Cardi B’s legs while she was in the backseat of a vehicle and drank an alcoholic beverage. ... The purpose, Cardi B testified, was to show her in control, reversing traditional gender roles.”

Latest in Music