TikToker takedown: Lawyer sues influencer for millions over defamatory divorce videos

TikToker takedown: Lawyer sues influencer for millions over defamatory divorce videos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that were true, a series of videos must be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. This isn’t merely a wild guess. We know of one particular video series that’s worth at least $150 million.

That’s the amount that a former lawyer from multinational law firm Greenberg Traurig is suing a TikTok influencer for posting videos about a legal case for views and likes.

The beginning

In 2006, lawyer Allan Kassenoff married a woman named Catherine. They had two biological children and one adopted child.

In 2019, Allan filed for divorce, claiming Catherine had been abusive toward him and their adopted child.

In 2020, a judge granted Allan temporary sole custody of their three children. In May of that year, a court temporarily ordered Catherine to stop visiting her children following a forensic evaluation that determined she posed a risk to them.

At this point, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the case…until a certain TikToker came along to cause drama.

The TikTok drama

In 2023, Robert Harvey, a TikTok celebrity and influencer with over three million followers on the video-sharing platform, started airing the Kassenoff family’s dirty laundry on the digital platform. Beginning May 31, Harvey posted 23 videos about Allan and Catherine Kassenoff’s divorce and custody battle. The ex-couple didn’t like that.

Harvey’s videos painted a vivid and quite damning picture of Allan. The video snippets captured intense verbal altercations between Allan and Catherine. In the clips, Allan was yelling at her, saying he hates her, she’s “a fat loser,” and he regrets meeting her.

What’s more, Harvey asserted in his TikTok videos that Allan colluded with judges, custody examiners, and therapists to make it appear that Catherine was unfit as a mother, ensuring Allan got full custody of their three children. And when the judge suspended Catherine’s visitation rights to her children in 2020, things took an even more tragic turn.

Harvey claimed that Catherine was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She decided to go to Switzerland to die via medically assisted suicide. Catherine also posted about her illness on Facebook and added a link to a Dropbox containing videos.

The lawsuit

In September 2023, Mr. Kassenoff filed a lawsuit in Florida’s Northern District, seeking a hefty $150 million in damages from Mr. Harvey. The 105-page lawsuit contained a laundry list of charges, including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with a business relationship, and cyberstalking.

Mr. Kassenoff accused the TikTok personality of misleading his three million-plus followers, especially regarding three claims that Harvey made: (1) Allan abused his family; (2) child protective services verified this abuse; and (3) a corrupt court system colluded with Allan to award him sole custody of the children. Allan also didn’t believe that Catherine had “life-ending cancer.”

Furthermore, Mr. Kassenoff claimed that Mr. Harvey orchestrated a full-scale assault on his employer, Greenberg Traurig, and its high-profile client, Samsung. Mr. Harvey allegedly urged his followers to bombard the law firm and Samsung with emails, phone calls, voicemails, and social media attacks, calling for Kassenoff’s termination. According to Mr. Kassenoff, the overwhelming pressure from social media generated by Mr. Harvey's digital exposé and his attacks on the firm and client were the cause of his forced resignation from Greenberg Traurig.

The legal twist

Mr. Kassenoff had more to say, so he amended his lawsuit. His complaint delved deeply into the intimate details of their marriage and the tumultuous four-year divorce saga. Even former nannies became involved, sharing their side of the story and painting Catherine as an abuser.

In February 2024, US District Judge T. Kent Wetherell II of the Northern District of Florida dismissed Mr. Kassenoff’s lawsuit. The judge said the suit was excessively lengthy (it was 110 pages) and included numerous allegations that seemed unrelated to the legal claims asserted. Many of the allegations were filled with unnecessary commentary and appeared to be “intended for a broader public audience,” according to the judge.

The judge said the lawsuit breached the federal rule mandating a “short and plain statement” of claims. He ordered Mr. Kassenoff to file a more succinct lawsuit.

Both parties claimed they were satisfied with the decision. TikTok influencer Robert Harvey had won the first round. However, Allan Kassenoff vowed to submit a second amended complaint soon and anticipates holding Mr. Harvey accountable for his actions.

This case serves as a reminder of social media’s power and potential consequences. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Family law matters don’t belong on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

Consult with our legal experts at LaGrandeur & Williams. For family law and personal injury matters, contact us or visit our Renton office if you’re in Washington State.