A woman who used to work as a Boston-area courier sued rapper Lizzo on Friday for libel following the emcee’s tweet that accused the woman of stealing her delivery from Luke’s Lobster in mid-September.
Tiffany Wells, a 27-year-old who lives in Greater Boston, filed suit in federal court in California, saying that Lizzo “used her celebrity to publicly defame, disparage and threaten a private individual” when, in a tweet to her million-plus followers, the hip-hop star and actress said “this girl Tiffany W. stole my food she lucky I don’t fight no more” along with a photo of Wells.
Wells is suing Lizzo, who is named as Melissa V. Jefferson in the complaint, for libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. She is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorney’s fees and costs.
Attempts to reach Lizzo’s public relations team were not successful Friday night.
According to her suit, on Sept. 16, Wells was working for Postmates, a delivery service that connects customers with couriers, when she received a delivery notification on her phone shortly before 7:15 p.m. for a food order to be picked up from Luke’s Lobster and delivered to the Revere Hotel, which is located on Stuart Street. Her complaint said she was unable to find the customer, who according to the order was named Bonnie V. The customer had not included a hotel room number, the court filing said.
Wells made multiple calls to the customer, but each went unanswered, according to the court filing. She spoke with the front desk employees , asking if anyone named Bonnie V. was staying at the hotel. When told there was no one under that name registered there , Wells went back outside, where she lingered for five minutes before departing, according to her lawsuit.
The suit asserted she spent more than 10 minutes trying to find the customer, which is “above and beyond Postmates’ requisite five-minute waiting period policy.”
The following day, Wells was inundated with messages and calls from friends and relatives telling her that Lizzo had posted her name and photo on Twitter, saying “Hey @Postmates this girl Tiffany W. stole my food she lucky I don’t fight no more.”
According to Wells’s complaint, Lizzo, in a reply to that tweet said, “the front desk told me she walked in, clocked it as delivered, then walked out with food in hand. Her phone never rang, Postmates couldn’t contact her either. She clearly knew what she was doing I just don’t want someone else to get they [expletive] stole too . . .”
The lawsuit said that some replying to her tweet, which has since been deleted, threatened Wells with “acts of violence.”
“As a relatively private person, [Wells] was shocked to find out that Lizzo had plastered her face on the Internet for all to see,” read the complaint. “ [she] was even more shocked to find out that her picture was accompanied by text accusing her of being a thief.”
On Sept. 17, Lizzo would apologize in a tweet for “putting that girl on blast.”
“I understand I have a large following and that there were so many variables that could’ve put her in danger. Imma really be more responsible with my use of social media and check my petty and my pride at the door,” Lizzo wrote.
But as a direct result of Lizzo’s actions, Wells “suffered and continues to suffer substantial damage and loss,” including loss of future earnings, emotional distress and trauma, fear of physical safety, and injury “to her personal and professional reputation,” according to the suit.
Wells stopped working for Postmates on Sept. 17, the day after the she went to the Revere Hotel to deliver the Luke’s Lobster order. Her suit said she was forced to quit. She no longer works as a courier.
She “ was scared to leave her house and as a result was forced to stop delivering as a courier altogether -- directly affecting her ability to earn a living,” read her suit.
Lizzo’s songs “Truth Hurts,” “Good As Hell,” “Juice,” and “Tempo” have all made it to the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Truth Hurts” marks her first chart-topping song. She performed at a sold-out Agganis Arena on Sept. 18.