T.I. and his wife Tiny Harris’ suit against MGA has been declared a mistrial after the toymaker argued cultural appropriation accusations had ruined the opportunity for a fair trial.
Judge James V. Selna agreed with MGA’s complaint on Wednesday (January 25), granting a mistrial. The ruling comes after Tiny sought to obtain the intellectual property rights of the former teen pop girl group OMG Girlz.
Tiny, who formed the OMG Girlz in 2009, called out MGA for allegedly stealing the group’s likeness for its L.O.L. Surprise OMG Girls dolls.
T.I. and Tiny claimed that MGA announced its plan to launch a line of dolls modeled after the OMG Girlz in 2010, but failed to secure a licensing agreement and allegedly refused to discuss compensation.
In a statement to Billboard , the toy company said they were disappointed with the mistrial outcome, but that diversity has always remained at the core of their creations.
“Diversity has always been a key value,” MGA said. “We are disappointed that the trial was cut short, but look forward to vindicating our rights in the next trial.”
T.I. and Tiny had attempted to persuade a jury that the line of dolls were examples of both “cultural appropriation and outright theft of the intellectual property,” and that the company attempted to steal the look of a group of “young multicultural women.” The suit featured side-by-side images that aimed to demonstrate how each doll was based on a particular member of OMG Girlz.
Judge Selna had staunchly prohibited such testimony from the trial, and ruled in one statement that allegations of “cultural appropriation” were “immaterial and impertinent” to the actual legal issues at play in the case and could not be made in front of jurors.
But as the trial entered its fifth day, jurors heard videotaped deposition testimony from a woman named Moneice Campbell, a former MGA customer, who reportedly testified that she would no longer purchase the company’s products because MGA “steals from African Americans and their ideas and profit off of it.”
Campbell added that “hundreds” of social media users had agreed with her claims, and included the fact that “people often steal from the black community and make money off of it.”
MGA’s lawyers immediately demanded a mistrial.
“There is no way to unring the bell of the jury’s hearing Ms. Campbell’s emotionally charged accusations that MGA has been ‘stealing’ from the African-American community,” the attorneys wrote in their filing. “Her improper testimony cannot be challenged, rebutted or cured without drawing further attention to it.”
The OMG Girlz quartet ranged from ages 11 to 13, and included Tiny’s daughter Zonnique Pullins, Lil Wayne’s daughter Reginae Carter, and sisters Bahja and Lourdes Rodriguez.
The group debuted their first single, “Ain’t Nobody,” in 2010 and were signed to Pretty Hustle, Tiny’s music imprint. Shortly after, Reginae, who was the youngest among the girls, left the group.
Best known for their singles “Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Where the Boys At?” and “Gucci This (Gucci That),” they made multiple appearances on the 2012 series T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle. The group disbanded in 2015.