News

Explainer: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and the $3B Kidnapping Lawsuit

The list of defendants named in the court document was 23 pages long. 

Published May 5, 2023

 (Tibrina Hobson/Contributor, Getty Images)
Image Via Tibrina Hobson/Contributor, Getty Images

In April 2023, claims began to spread online that actor and former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had been named as a defendant in a $3 billion kidnapping lawsuit.

The most prominent post we found about the claims on social media appeared on TikTok on April 24, 2023. It went viral on the platform, with the video receiving over 675,000 views at the time of publication. The person in the video claimed:

We also found posts about the lawsuit that mentioned Johnson on Reddit and Twitter. In addition, a post on a Facebook fan page for Johnson was posted the day before the viral TikTok video. The Facebook post had over 3,900 reactions at the time of this writing.

It is true that Johnson was named in the lawsuit. We reached out to his manager for comment and will update this fact check if we hear back.

Using the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service, we found the lawsuit was first filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on Oct. 8, 2022. That court presides over federal cases in the counties of New York, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan. (We have included the full court document at the bottom of this fact check.)

At the time of this writing, the date of last filing in the case docket was March 1, 2023, when the order that granted In Forma Pauperis (IFP) status was mailed to the plaintiff's address. (A docket is a document that lists all papers filed and actions taken in a legal case. The Latin phrase stands for "in the form of a pauper" and is generally granted when applicants show they do not have the resources to pay the filing fee, according to the District Court's website.)

The proceedings calendar for the court during the week of May 1, 2023, did not include the case. When we reached out to the court for comment about any further legal actions, the help desk referred us to the case's docket.

In the document, the plaintiff asked for relief in the amount of $3 billion. Johnson was one of hundreds of defendants listed in the lawsuit. In total, the list of defendants spanned 23 pages — including celebrities such as Eminem, Naomi Campbell, and Michael Jordan, as well as companies like Verizon, Bank of America, and Universal Studios, and law-enforcement agencies like the FBI, Dona Ana County New Mexico Sheriff, and Las Cruces Police Department in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The plaintiffs in the court case were listed as a former professional wrestler and her two minor children. The woman previously wrestled for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, a professional wrestling promotion company known as Impact Wrestling at the time of publication. The court documents stated that the plaintiffs were representing themselves pro se, meaning they were legally representing themselves. We reached out to an Instagram account that appeared to belong to the woman for further comment. 

In a timeline included in the court document, the woman claimed that her ex-husband stalked her and her two children across state lines when he was on active probation for family violence against her. The timeline stated that her ex-husband had the assistance of law enforcement in stalking her, ultimately abducting her and her two children from a New York domestic violence shelter. The timeline also stated that her children had remained kidnapped since 2019.

Johnson was not named in the timeline. A statement of facts at the beginning of the lawsuit didn't directly name Johnson, but did claim that the defendants named in the lawsuit collectively conspired to kidnap her and her children. According to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, conspiracy is "an agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with an intent to achieve the agreement's goal." In order to prove conspiracy in most U.S. jurisdictions, an overt act, or an action that shows someone has committed a crime, is also required.

Claims Made About Johnson Related to the Lawsuit

The TikTok referenced above also included footage that claimed Johnson had appeared on "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) as himself saying he had created a "child molesting robot." The TikTok also claimed Johnson had said that he "ate children" in an interview. Another TiKTok also linked to the SNL sketch and the lawsuit.

It is true that Johnson appeared in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch titled "World's Most Evil Invention" that aired on May 20, 2017. In the sketch, he played a mad scientist named Roy who created a child-molesting robot. The other claim (that Johnson said he ate children) came from an interview Johnson did to promote his movie "Skyscraper" with the movie's director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Indonesian entertainer Deddy Corbuzier, and his son in 2018. The Jakarta News reported that Corbuzier asked about what Johnson's secret was after noting his body looked very large. (We translated the article, which was originally in Indonesian, using Google Translate.)

Disney blog Inside the Magic also wrote about the lawsuit, publishing a post titled, "Dwayne Johnson Axed From Disney Franchise Amid $3 Billion Lawsuit," linking the lawsuit to the claim that Johnson would not be joining the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. 

However, there is no evidence that Johnson had ever joined the franchise in the first place, or that the lawsuit had anything to do with his potential participation, or lack thereof. Reputable publications would have reported that news if it had happened, as they did in April 2023 when he announced he would be heavily involved in the "Moana" live-action remake as a producer, as well as reprising his role as Maui from the original film. Also, Inside the Magic's own blog post noted that neither Johnson nor Disney confirmed he was involved in the reboot of the franchise.

You can read the full court filing here:

(source: PACER)

Sources

Archie, Ayana. "Hit Animated Film 'Moana' Will Receive a Live-Action Remake, Disney Announced." NPR, 4 Apr. 2023. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2023/04/04/1167880231/moana-live-action-remake-disney.

Carras, Christi. "WWE Stars Nikki and Brie Bella Are No More. Reintroducing Nikki and Brie Garcia." Los Angeles Times, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2023-03-15/nikki-bella-brie-bella-wwe-bella-twins.

How to Start a Lawsuit Without an Attorney | U.S District Court. https://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/prose/appearing-without-an-attorney. Accessed 4 May 2023.

McCarthy, Tyler. "The Miz And Maryse Go Full 'Top Gun' Parody In Promo For WrestleMania 39." USA Insider Official Site, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.usanetwork.com/usa-insider/wrestlemania-39-host-the-miz-maryse-top-gun-parody.

"Sebut Badan The Rock Johnson Sangat Besar, Deddy Corbuzier Terbahak-bahak Saat Tahu Rahasianya." Tribunjakarta.com, https://jakarta.tribunnews.com/2018/07/08/sebut-badan-the-rock-johnson-sangat-besar-deddy-corbuzier-terbahak-bahak-saat-tahu-rahasianya. Accessed 4 May 2023.

Shah, Furvah. "A Live-Action Remake of Moana Is Coming!" Cosmopolitan, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/entertainment/a43507595/live-action-moana-cast-news/.

Timmerman, Antonia. "Meet Indonesia's Joe Rogan — Part YouTube Star, Part Magician, All Controversy." Rest of World, 31 Oct. 2022, https://restofworld.org/2022/meet-indonesias-joe-rogan-youtube-star/.

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling On Spike TV! - News & Video From Last Week's IMPACT! 10 Apr. 2008, http://web.archive.org/web/20080410121335/http://www.tnawrestling.com/content/view/558/84/.

World's Most Evil Invention - SNL. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0NgUhEs1R4. Accessed 4 May 2023.

Wrestling Junkie Staff. "Jerry Jarrett, Famed Wrestling Promoter and Father of Jeff, Passes Away at 80." Wrestling Junkie, 15 Feb. 2023, https://wrestlingjunkie.usatoday.com/2023/02/14/jerry-jarrett-passes-away-at-80/.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.