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Doe v. Hagar

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 28, 2014

Jane Doe, Plaintiff - Appellant
Sammy Hagar, Defendant - Appellee

Submitted June 12, 2014

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Waterloo.

For Jane Doe, Plaintiff - Appellant: David Lee Brown, Des Moines, IA; Howard M. Cooper, Edward Francis Foye, David H. Rich, Benjamin J. Wish, Todd & Weld, Boston, MA; Alexander E. Wonio, Hansen & Mcclintock, Des Moines, IA.

For Sammy Hagar, Defendant - Appellee: Frances M. Haas, Attorney, Ryan Gene Koopmans, Richard J. Sapp, Nyemaster & Goode, Des Moines, IA; James Wesley Kinnear, Kinnear Law Firm, San Francisco, CA.

Before LOKEN, BRIGHT, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.


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BRIGHT, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Jane Doe appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment of dismissal in favor of defendant-appellee Sammy Hagar, a well-known rock musician. After meeting in 1983, Doe and Hagar engaged in a romantic relationship spanning several years. In 1988, Doe became pregnant and believed that Hagar was the father of her child. Hagar denied paternity. Doe gave birth in February 1989 and the child died soon thereafter. Twenty-two years later in 2011, Hagar published an autobiography in which he alleged that Doe had extorted him by claiming she was pregnant with his child. Doe brought suit against Hagar in Iowa state court alleging various causes of action, including libel per se. Hagar removed the case to federal district court and moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted on all of Doe's claims. Doe appeals. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

I. Background

Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to Doe and affording her all reasonable inferences, see Marlowe v. Fabian, 676 F.3d 743, 746 (8th Cir. 2012), the material facts are as follows.

From 1982 to 1985, Doe worked as a Playboy bunny at the Lansing, Michigan, Playboy Club. Doe first met Hagar in 1983 through Ed Leffler, Hagar's manager, while Hagar was touring as a solo musician. After Doe became acquainted with Hagar, she was often invited to attend Hagar's concerts. From 1983 to 1988, Doe and Hagar engaged in a romantic relationship despite seeing each other infrequently during that time.

In June 1988, Leffler invited Doe to attend one of Hagar's upcoming concerts in Detroit. At the time, Hagar was the lead singer of the band Van Halen. Doe met Hagar at a restaurant in Detroit where Hagar gave her his room number and told her to contact him. Later that night, Doe went to Hagar's room and the

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couple engaged in sexual intercourse. Three months later, Doe called Leffler to inform him that she was pregnant with Hagar's child. Hagar denied that he was the father. Doe's close family and friends knew of her relationship with Hagar and of Doe's belief that Hagar was the father of the child.

Doe hired an attorney in the summer of 1988 to assist her in obtaining child support. The parties negotiated an agreement (the " Agreement" ) whereby Hagar would provide Doe a certain amount of financial assistance in exchange for Doe's silence as to her belief of Hagar's paternity. Doe also promised to submit the child for paternity testing within six months of birth. The Agreement prohibited both Hagar and Doe from disclosing its existence or its terms. Doe and Hagar signed the Agreement on February 17, 1989. Doe contends that she received a total of $7,000 from Hagar.

Near the end of her pregnancy, Doe returned to Iowa to live with her family. On February 27, 1989, she gave birth to her child. No paternity tests were ever performed. The child died a few days later on March 4, 1989.

Twenty-two years later, in March 2011, Hagar released his autobiography entitled Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock (" Red " ). Hagar hired journalist Joel Selvin to write the book, which is based on interviews Selvin conducted with Hagar. More than 280,000 copies of the book have been sold worldwide. On pages 116 and 117 of Red, Hagar recounts his memories of Doe:

On the tour, there was a former Playboy bunny from California hanging around, who used to see one of the other guys in my old band. Somehow she hooked up with Leffler, although she had always been after me. She was good-looking, but there was just something about this chick that was not to be trusted. She saw my name on Leffler's rooming list and came knocking at my door in the middle of the night in Detroit. I answered the door without any clothes--I sleep naked--and she pushes the door open, throws me on the bed, and starts blowing me. That's kind of tough to get up and walk away from. " Son of a bitch," I was thinking, " I'm fucked now." And sure enough, I was.
About ten days later, Leffler gets the phone call. She's pregnant. I smelled a setup. I was so pissed off. Betsy would commit suicide. We hired an attorney and started dealing with her. I knew it was not my baby. It was extortion.
She wanted an apartment in New York and anything for that kid that my children would have. I didn't want to pay a penny, but Leffler convinced me the smart thing to do was give her the money until the baby was born and see what happened at that point. She was living with her boyfriend, a musician in New York, in the apartment when she had the baby. She called Leffler from the hospital. " Tell Sammy to call me," she said. I didn't want to, but Leffler talked me into it. She tells me the baby is so cute, looks just like me, she's madly in love with me, she's so sorry, shit like that.
A couple days later, Leffler gets another call. The baby died. I don't believe she ever had a baby. She may have had an abortion early on. Marshall Lever, my psychic with the sleeping dog, told me about it. " It's not your baby," he said. " She's living with her boyfriend in New York. She has a boyfriend that's a musician and this is probably an extortion case. Don't worry, just relax, and once she has the baby, it's all going to go away."

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I never heard from her again. Obviously, it wasn't my baby, and they knew it. They just extorted me as long as they could. No one ever saw her again.

Doe contends that Hagar's characterization of her as a schemer and criminal is false. After release of the book, Doe informed certain friends and family that she was mentioned in Red so they would not think that Hagar's ...

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