The IdoLawyer: Is Carrie Underwood Above The Law?

Editor’s note: Aside from a few Clash lyrics, your Idolators know nothing about the law. Which is why we’re proud to present another missive from the IdoLawyer, an anonymous California attorney who will be weighing in on various music-related matters. While her column isn’t intended as legal advice, it is sage advice nonetheless, and this week she looks at the legally iffy video for Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”:

It was all fun and games last month trying to figure out whether a fictional Justin Timberlake could be guilty of murder in the “What Goes Around Comes Around” clip. This week we’re taking on the video for Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” a clip that has the potential to make thousands of impressionable young women liable for a lot of money.

When your man is cheating, Carrie recommends a well-balanced diet of revenge tactics:

- Keying his car
- Carving your name into its backseat
- Smashing out its headlights
- Putting a hole in each of its tires

Clearly, girlfriend isn’t the let’s-talk-it-out type. But will her swift temper lead to even swifter legal consequences? Considering the extent of the damage, Carrie probably assumed she’d have to pay some repair costs. What she might not have expected is being forced to pay for the entire car. In all states, she could be sued for “conversion,” which, in layman’s terms, means that that you’ve made a piece of property your own. Even if you don’t outright steal the thing, you’re liable if you’ve made the property unusable to its owner, or effectively dispossessed him of it.

There’s a plausible argument to be made that Carrie’s boyfriend could never use the car again now that her name has been carved into every leather surface. What country boy could possibly stand to get behind the wheel of the Carriemobile? Especially when her signature looks so similar to the infamous Carrie Bradshaw necklace. The mere association is emasculating.

So, if Carrie were to lose in court, she could well be on the line for the full fair market value of the property (before she destroyed it). What’s more, Carrie could be forced to keep the piece of junk, too, smashed headlights and all. Conversion is basically a forced sale.

Of course, Carrie is not without her defenses. She could argue she destroyed the car to prevent a greater harm from befalling her bastard beau–like, for example, deadly assault with a Louisville Slugger. She could also argue she had a legal duty or contractual right to destroy the car–but that might only hold up in the southern states.

Carrie may have won American Idol, but we haven’t heard about her passing the bar. So, ladies, don’t take her word for it–exacting revenge on your boyfriend can be costlier than you think (Suze Orman would definitely disapprove). In the meantime, it’s probably better to take Avril Lavigne’s approach to love triangles, as spelled out in her video for “Girlfriend”: Steal him back. You’re not only entitled to the guy, you won’t have to pay anybody anything, because a cheating boyfriend ain’t worth much.

Carrie Underwood – “Before He Cheats” [YouTube]
Earlier: The IdoLawyer Archives

  • katie_a_princess

    hey! (hey!) you! (you!) i don’t like your Volvo

  • Deadly Tango

    What about the Lily Allen approach (from “Smile”)? Admittedly, trashing the record collection and tossing the apartment looks like breaking and entering, with a side helping of vandalism (and perhaps the conversion claim noted above). But would slipping ExLax in the coffee be considered assault, battery (causing physical harm by inducing uncontrollable bodily functions), or just “dirty tricks” excused by the initial cheating?

  • lucasg

    when it comes right down to it, folks in the country music listening/white trash demographic will beat someone- ANYONE- for fucking with their vehicle. especially their truck. perhaps carrie underwood should include a disclaimer that if you fuck with your cheatin’ man’s truck, he might just beat the living shit out of you, perhaps deservedly so. even vincent vega will tell you about fucking with another man’s automobile.

  • catdirt

    hey- i think the more applicable issue in the fact pattern above is that the dollar value of the damage could make her guilty of a felony, and people who commit felonies often go to jail (as supposed to committing a misdemeanor, which is often punished with community service). compared to jail, a civil lawsuit is pretty small cheese.

  • AcidReign

    …..I don’t know about that, Lucas. In the Alabama town I live in, a looker like Carrie could easily get four or five guys in any bar to go help her maul the vehicle, for free. And they’d buy her drinks afterward, too!

    …..Not only that, but then Birmingham PD would tow the vehicle to Kemp’s Garage, and let it sit for a month or two before mailing out a notification. Cheater would owe about $1500 in storage fees, on top of it all.

  • Bazooka Tooth

    can i cut and paste this for my next property exam?

  • DorothyMantooth

    Conversion is a tort. But you should totally do that.

    Also, whoever styled Carrie for that video obviously hates her very much, and those effect? Very special.

  • DorothyMantooth

    Eff! “effects”

  • dollywould

    @lucasg: Ouch, dude. “White trash?”

  • Kaylyn

    Clearly the writer hasn’t done his research. There is one very critical error in his theory – the owner of the truck is not Carrie’s boyfriend, rather her husband. In the same year the “Before he Cheats” music video was released, Carrie also released a video called “Last Name.” The video begins by saying in captions “Three months earlier (before he cheated).” In the end of the video, she naively elopes with the man who clearly has an unfaithful mindset.

    Point being – Carrie isn’t liable for any damages in a case where a girl may have been “impressionable” to Carrie’s suggestions because Carrie did nothing legally wrong. If she is married, it can be assumed it was her property to destroy. It also can’t be reasonably assumed that the truck wasn’t her property due to a prenuptial because she states in “Last Name” that when she first met him he owned a Pinto, so the most plausible scenario is he purchased the truck after their marriage, making it joint property.