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.