A man who admits picking on Eminem when they were schoolmates cannot sue the rapper over a song that depicts his bullying as a brain-jarring attack, the state appeals court said.
“Brain Damage,” released on 1999’s “The Slim Shady LP,” was not intended to be taken literally, a three-judge panel said in an opinion released Friday, dismissing a lawsuit filed by sanitation worker Deangelo Bailey.
Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, says in the song Bailey beat him up in a school bathroom, banging his head on a urinal and choking him.
Bailey sued in 2001, accusing the Detroit-area rapper of invading his privacy by publicizing unreasonable information that put him in a false light.
Bailey admitted that he picked on Mathers but said he merely “bumped” him at school and threw a “little shove.”
The court cited song lyrics in which Eminem said the school principal stomped on him, leaving him for dead. Those lyrics along with others — Eminem singing that his “whole brain fell out” of his skull — would not be taken literally by a “reasonable listener,” the judges wrote.
The court also ruled that Bailey failed to present a genuine factual issue in the suit.
Mary Massaron Ross, an attorney for Eminem, applauded the decision.
“The fact that there may have been differences in the precise facts didn’t matter because the gist of the story was true by Bailey’s own admission,” she said.
Bailey’s attorney, Byron Nolen, said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling and will not appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.
“I don’t think (the justices) would even look at it to be honest with you,” Nolen said.
The appeals court upheld a 2003 decision by a Macomb County judge who composed a rap of her own to help explain her ruling.
“The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact/they’re an exaggeration of a childish act,” Circuit Judge Deborah Servitto wrote. “It is therefore this Court’s ultimate position/that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.”