Sean “Diddy” Combs just scored a significant win in his case against alcohol giant Diageo after a judge denied two crucial motions filed by the liquor maker, according to court documents filed Thursday.
Combs himself was present in court for the ruling, during which New York state judge Joel M. Cohen rejected Diageo’s motions for the case to be dismissed or, alternatively, sent to private arbitration. The case will now move forward in state court, with the trial open to the public.
The lawsuit, brought by Combs in May, claims Diageo breached its partnership deal with the artist and entrepreneur for its DeLeón Tequila by failing to properly support the brand, thereby harming its sales. Combs’ lawsuit also leveled accusations of racism against the alcohol company, accusing it of treating his product line “worse than others because he is Black.”
In June, Diageo fired back by calling Combs’ racism accusations “false and reckless” and part of an effort to “extract additional billions” from the company while concurrently filing motions for dismissal or arbitration. At the same time, a spokeswoman for Diageo noted the company had permanently severed its business relationship with Combs, claiming the rapper had “repeatedly undermined our partnerships and threatened to publicly defame Diageo if we did not meet his unreasonable financial demands.” The company additionally painted Combs as “an unreliable and untrustworthy business partner” who failed in his obligations to support DeLeón.
In asking Cohen to keep the case out of court, the company argued that the “garden variety” business dispute should have been decided under a binding arbitration agreement previously signed by both parties. But the judge clearly disagreed, striking down Diageo’s motions after hearing oral arguments from attorneys on both sides of the case for more than 90 minutes on Thursday.
“This case has always been about getting fair and equal treatment,” said Combs’ lawyer John Hueston in a statement. “Today’s decision is an important step in the right direction. Diageo tried to end this action. Today the judge soundly rejected that effort.”
Combs added, “I’m fighting for fair and equal treatment for everyone. This isn’t just about me. I look forward to continuing this fight in court. We all deserve the same 24 hours.”
A spokesperson for Diageo sent the following statement: “While we are disappointed with yesterday’s procedural decision, it is important to underscore that this is not a ruling on the merits of the claims, which we maintain are false and baseless. We are currently considering all legal options.”