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1. Wu-Tang Claimant vs. Wu-Tang Clan
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Ghostface Killah
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
RZA
Wu-Tang Clan
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Ghostface Killah was once a prominent member of hip-hop luminaries Wu-Tang Clan, alongside RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty, and all da rest. This suit relates directly to Killah's activities in the Clan, particularly his co-authorship of songs in which he provided lyrics over RZA's production work. Plaintiff alleged that he was not paid appropriately by RZA, Wu-Tang, or the band's publishing entity, and sued for compensation. After a non-jury trial found that Killah was owed for his contributions to the co-authored songs, the court reduced his award by 25%, which was the amount determined in the artists' publishing agreement to be retained by Wu-Tang's publishing entity. The court initially found that Killah did not adequately allege RZA to be personally liable for the entity's activities, because no evidence was presented to show the company was RZA's "alter ego," but later found that Killah could amend his complaint to state claims against RZA personally for designating 50% of royalty income to himself as an unauthorized "producer's fee." - LSW


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2. "My Contract's Bad And I'm Gonna Be in Trouble"
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Angels
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs are the Allbut sisters, the two backing vocalists for The Angels, who had a massive hit with "My Boyfriend's Back." The sisters had not received royalties for the recording (they didn't write it so publishing is unavailable) since they repudiated the exclusivity provision in their contract in the 1960s. The court here found that, at least regarding royalty payments due within the previous six years, the doctrine of laches did not bar the suit, because Defendants could not show prejudice on account of the delay. However, most other claims were barred by statutes of limitation. - LSW


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3. Labels Encourage Remy's Gangsterism?
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Concert Attendee(s)
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Remy Ma
Universal Music Group
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Defendant is Remy Ma, a female hip-hop artist allegedly known for her violent personality and music. Plaintiff was at Ma's birthday party, and, after a dispute erupted between the two, Ma shot Plaintiff in the stomach at close range. Plaintiff sued Remy Ma, but also included Ma's record label, music publisher, and assorted other music entities. Regarding the associated companies, Plaintiff alleged they negligently promoted her antisocial and dangerous behavior, and that signing her to a record contract constituted negligent hiring. Prior to this opinion, Ma was convicted of criminal assault, among other things. After Ma sought to stay this suit pending appeal of the criminal conviction, which the court denied (the verdict in the criminal trial was final, not pending, even if appeals were possible), the court found that the assorted music entities were not Ma's employer and could not be held liable for Ma's persona or behavior. Even if Plaintiff could show that the Defendants were Ma's employers, the contracts defining their relationship allegedly expired before the shooting incident, so there could be no liability anyway. - LSW


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4. Lawsuit Against Against Me!
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Esther Creative Group
Defendants Against Me!
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The manager for Against Me! sued the band for nonpayment of the agreed-upon 15% commission from tours and sales allegedly resulting from his management agreement with the band. Despite claiming Statute of Frauds as a defense, that the unwritten contract was insufficient in that it was not to be performed within one year, the court held that emails and respondences may qualify as a writing, and, alternatively, that the doctrine of "part performance" and Plaintiff's claim for quantum meruit could form bases for relief. Defendant's motion to dismiss denied. - LSW


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5. Highwaymen Rob Producer?
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Moman, "Chips"
Defendants Sony BMG Music
Other Cash, Johnny
Highwaymen
Jennings, Waylon
Kristofferson, Kris
Nelson, Willie
Short Description "Chips" Moman was a songwriter/producer/performer who was hired as producer for a Willie Nelson album, and later sued Sony, with whom his production contract was entered, for non-payment of royalties. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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6. Producers vs. Lawyers
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Theatrical Producer(s)
Defendants Lawyer(s)
Other Manilow, Barry
Short Description In a follow-up case to "Arbitration Over Manilow Cancelation," where Manilow successfully upheld an arbitration award against Plaintiffs in the instant case, the production house that licensed rights to produce the play "Harmony" sued their lawyer for failing to properly instruct them when the contract options lapsed. In this case, the court held that, even though Plaintiff's counsel gave bad advice, Plaintiff was unable to secure proper financing anyway, and thus counsel's bad advice was not the proximate cause of anything. - LSW


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7. Lou Pearlman's Fraud Busted
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Financial Professional(s)
Other Pearlman, Lou
Short Description The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant conspired with Lou Pearlman to misappropriate funds that the Plaintiff's entrusted to Pearlman's Trans Continental Airlines. Pearlman, a recording svengali later created N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Pearlman's ponzi scheme lasted from the 1980s until 2006, costing investors $300 million. The Defendant was an employee of Pearlman's record label, but also appeared as the manager for the ponzi scheme's front company. She claimed she was just a secretary, but the Plaintiffs asserted she was the party they dealt with when they spoke with the front company. This part of the case concerned whether the Court had personal jurisdiction over the Defendant, who lived in Florida. The Plaintiffs, New Yorkers, could not show that the Defendant ever engaged in conduct in in New York, nor that she ever even mailed them a document. The Court dismissed the complaint against the Defendant and also refused to let the Plaintiffs add additional Defendants. - JMC


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8. James Brown Bonds?
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Brown, James
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Pullman, David
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This lawsuit involves an obscure little investment vehicle known as a "Pullman Bond," though it is probably better known as a "Bowie Bond," named after David Bowie, the pop star that first utilized it. In the late 1990s, Bowie issued asset-backed securities of revenues generated by his pre-1990 albums, offering an interest rate of 7.9%, to be paid out of royalties from those albums. Bowie cashed in $55 million from the deal, though he forfeited 10 years worth of royalties (the life of the bonds). This lawsuit does not involve Bowie, but James Brown, who used a similar process in securing a $26 million loan from Defendant, the Pullman Group for which the Pullman Bond is known, shortly after Bowie's deal was finished. Brown pledged future revenue in exchange for the $26 million loan, but also promised Pullman, in writing, that he would refinance the assets "upon future recoupment of the securities" with Pullman alone. When Brown tried refinancing through a third party, Pullman sent a notice to that company, as well as Brown and his entities. The refinancing transaction broke down, and Brown sued for declaratory judgment of non-breach and for interference with business relationships. Pullman counterclaimed for declaratory judgment and breach of contract. The definition of "recoupment," as intended by the parties, determined whether there was a breach. Brown's claims for interference with business were dismissed, since Pullman's letter was only intended to explain its financial interest. So was Pullman's action for breach, since the refinancing, if it were a breach, was never consummated. Furthermore, a declaration of breach or non-breach is pointless, because the refinancing was abandoned. - LSW


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9. Ex-Girlfriend vs. 50 Cent
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Girlfriend of Artist(s)
Defendants 50 Cent
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description A longtime girlfriend to Curtis Jackson (50 Cent), who is also mother to his child, sued 50 for numerous causes of action after he "made it big," alleging he had earlier promised, in return for supporting him while he was struggling and newly paroled, that "when he makes it big, he will take care of [her] for the rest of [her] life." When 50's celebrity and bank account grew, he pushed for Plaintiff (and provided funds) to start a career investing in properties. After the relationship strained, 50 began sleeping around and allegedly hitting Plaintiff, they split, and Plaintiff filed this suit. It could be taught in first year Contracts classes, as it deals with oral contracts and equitable relief that may arise when such promises are unenforceable. The trial court found that Plaintiff stated causes of action for breach of contract, breach of joint venture agreement, partition of property, and various equitable actions, holding that unmarried cohabitants were legally able to contract regarding financial matters. In its final disposition, however, the court dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Any contract-based claims were blocked by lack of specificity in the original promise or by the Statute of Frauds, as not performable within one year. The court found for 50 Cent on every other cause of action, denying petition of property and dismissing assault and battery (outside the statute of limitations), fraud, and others. Plaintiff's "unjust enrichment" action was also insufficient; 50 had since taken care of Plaintiff, even if she originally took care of him. - LSW


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10. Topless Mermaid vs. Puffy
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Bad Boy Entertainment
Combs, Sean
Individual(s)
Vibe Magazine
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was among several attendees dressed as topless mermaids at one of Puffy's "White Parties," which he threw regularly in the Hamptons, NY. As should have been expected, Puffy hired photographers to capture the event, and, as would also be expected, they photographed the topless mermaids. These pictures appeared in Vibe magazine, with the caption "Mermaids gone wild," and Plaintiffs sued, alleging the publication of the pictures constituted various causes of action under "privacy" and "publicity" rubrics. The court, as it should have, found Plaintiff's actions meritless. Though she is not a public figure herself, the photos bore "a reasonable relationship to a newsworthy article and [were] not a disguised advertisement." She was a freaking topless mermaid at Puffy's mansion. Who wouldn't want to know about that? The suit was dismissed, as was Plaintiff's remaining dignity. - LSW


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11. Richie Ramone vs. Ramones (II)
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Former Band Member(s)
Defendants Estate of Artist(s)
Financial Professional(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Ramones
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Richie Ramone was to the Ramones what Vinnie Vincent was to KISS: an itinerant member whose contributions were later outweighed by the legal problems arising from his brief association (look Vinnie up to see his suits). After an earlier dispute arose regarding Richie's royalties, he settled with Defendants in the early 2000s, but alleged payments did not continue as required. Here, Richie sued the estate of Johnny Ramone, the Ramones business entity, music publishers, and various others involved in the band's financial matters, arising from a supposed underpayment of royalties according to a contract signed in 1984 (despite the 2002 settlement). In addition to unpaid royalties, Richie alleged fraud, negligent misrepresentation, fiduciary breaches, and others theories. The court held that, other than his direct claim against the Ramones for underpaying royalties (and even this was limited to the statutory period and earlier settlement), his complaints must be dismissed. He failed to allege fraud or any special circumstances giving rise to fiduciary duties. Johnny Ramone, for instance, was merely a member and co-distributee of the royalties, and never made any representations to Richie regarding his role in the band. The case proceeded, though on very limited grounds. - LSW


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12. "Son of Sam Law" vs. Shyne
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Lawyer(s)
Shyne
Other Island Def Jam Records
Short Description Shyne was involved in a shootout which sent him to prison. This case is the civil trial, in which victims sought to prevent disbursement of his $500,000 advance through New York's "Son of Sam" law. Granted and affirmed on appeal. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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13. Suit Over Beyonce's Clothes
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Beyonc?
Clothing Manufacturer(s)
Other Destiny's Child
Short Description Plaintiff entered into a contract with Beyonce's management to facilitate licensing agreements between Knowles and a clothing manufacture. Plaintiff subsequently sued for breach of contract and quantum meruit when he did not receive as much payment as he expected for his services. The court dismissed the claims because business opportunities, according to the Statute of Frauds, must be in writing to be enforceable, and Plaintiff's only evidence of a contract was checks and check stubs. - LSW & SKR


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14. Oops, Don't Do That Again!
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Radio Show Attendee(s)
Defendants Clear Channel
Other Spears, Britney
Short Description A young girl went at a radio station to see Britney Spears arrive for a live interview, having been made aware through broadcasts that Spears would be there. However, the story was an advertising ploy; the woman who arrived was an impersonator and the interview was not "live." When the woman who was supposed to be Spears left the building through a side exit, the crowd that had gathered at the station ran around the building. The young girl at the heart of this suit fell (though no one knew why) and hit her head on a garage door handle. Sadly, she later died. Her mother sued the radio station (owned by Clear Channel) for negligence and fraud. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants on the fraud and negligent supervision claims, but allowed Plaintiff to proceed on ordinary negligence. The Appellate Division thought all claims were baseless; the fraud hadn't caused her injury, there was no evidence that supervision had anything to do with the young girl's fall, and, last, Plaintiffs were unable to give any reason why the girl fell, so ordinary negligence hadn't been adequately pleaded either. Sad, but true. - LSW


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15. Former Employee vs. Puffy (III)
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Bad Boy Entertainment
Combs, Sean
Other Blige, Mary J.
Short Description The Plaintiff was a close friend of the Defendant, Sean Combs. The Plaintiff worked at Bad Boy, Comb's record company, in administrative, marketing, and A&R roles. In 1993, Combs supposedly gave the Plaintiff shares of Bad Boy and significant raises until 1997. The Plaintiff alleged in 1996 that Combs threatened him with a baseball bat in order to have the Plaintiff return the shares back to Combs. In 1997, Combs fired the Plaintiff, right as the Plaintiff was becoming Mary J. Blige's manager. The Plaintiff alleged that Combs tortiously intimidated him into giving up shares in Bad Boy Entertainment as well as interfered with potential clients. The Plaintiff also sued Combs for RICO violations in Federal Court ("Former Employee vs. Puffy (II)"), but those claims were dismissed. The Defendants' motion to stay the proceedings until the contemporaneous federal claims could be appealed was granted. This advantaged the Defendant because the claims in this lawsuit were being appealed in the federal suit. - JMC


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16. Aaliyah's Label Sues for Negligence
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Blackground Records
Defendants Music Video Producer(s)
Other Aaliyah
Short Description Aaliyah's business agent brought a wrongful death action against a music video production company, alleging lost profits for Defendant record company's negligent arrangement of travel in relation to Aaliyah's death in an airplane crash. The court held that since the record company had already settled with Aaliyah's family in California, allowing associated entities to recover would be unjust. Since New York's statute does not allow double recovery, Plaintiff tried to sue in common law tort, but the court found no such common law tort exists; it was superseded by legislation. - LSW & SKR


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17. Management vs. Beyonce
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Wilhelmina Artist Management
Defendants Beyonc?
Other Destiny's Child
Short Description Plaintiff, a company which represents artists and musicians in connection with commercial and marketing activities, sued Beyonce for breach of contract for nonpayment of commission due in connection with her endorsement of products made by the cosmetics conglomerate, L'Oreal, USA, Inc. Beyonce argued that Plaintiff breached the covenant of good faith by not revealing L'Oreal's true monetary offer for her endorsement. The court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment based on the clear and unambiguous language of the contract. - SKR


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18. Gene Simmons's Ex Sues
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Girlfriend of Artist(s)
Defendants Simmons, Gene
Viacom
Other KISS
Short Description Plaintiff, now married, was a former sexual and romantic partner of Gene Simmons, lead singer for the glam/metal/theatrical rock act KISS, prior to and after formation of the band. Plaintiff sued various television entities for defamation and violation of her right of publicity when her relationship with Simmons was portrayed in a VH-1 documentary about the band. The caption for the segment in which she appeared was "24 Hour Whore" (classy, VH-1, classy), though this comment was intended to implicate Simmons as the whore, not Plaintiff. Plaintiff's photograph was shown on screen while Simmons discussed his promiscuity, sleeping with any woman, no "matter who they were, what size, shape or anything." The court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss, saying the feature was susceptible to defamatory meaning. Simmons' promiscuity could certainly be imputed by viewers onto Plaintiff (and even if not, it certainly made her seem "unchaste"). Regarding Plaintiff's publicity claim, however, the court found Defendants' use of her likeness was not "for advertising purposes," and thus the claim was dismissed. - LSW


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19. Bolton Lost Trial, Sues Lawyers
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Bolton, Michael
Defendants Lawyer(s)
Other Isley Brothers
Short Description Michael Bolton sued the lawyers who represented him in a previous copyright infringement lawsuit involving the Isley Brothers. Bolton alleged that his former lawyers breached their fiduciary duties as a result of a conflict of interest arising out of their representation of Bolton, and as a result of the conflict, he was unable to settle the previous litigation. The present lawsuit involved Bolton's motion to compel the disclosure of insurance information, which the Defendant lawyers opposed. The court ruled in favor of Bolton and granted the motion. - SKR & LSW


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20. Puff and D's Stampede Insurance
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Insurer(s)
Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Defendants Combs, Sean
Educational Institution(s)
Heavy D (and the Boyz)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description After Sean Combs and Heavy D were each held 50% liable for the deaths and damages resulting from an overexcited crowd hoping to gain access to the celebrity basketball game the two organized (thrown at the City College of New York's Nat Holman Gymnasium), Heavy D's insurance company sought to deny coverage. The insurer tried numerous theories of denial, alleging the event was a "theatrical presentation" for which Heavy D contracted, and that it constituted "self-promotion," among others, which would have fallen outside the policy. The court found the arguments meritless. Insurance policies are strictly construed against insurers, and here Heavy's activities did not fit any of the recognized exclusions; it was not a concert and was not a self-promotion. Further, D and Puffy were not joint venturers, so Puffy's status as "promoter" could not be imputed to D, who was really just brought on to coach one of the teams. The appellate divisions affirmed the decision; the insurer was required to indemnify Heavy for the costs and liabilities arising from the incident. Whatever happened to Combs's liability, however, is not stated. For an earlier case relating to the police's involvement, see "Police at Fault for Concert Trampling?" - LSW


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