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1. Operaccident = Negligence?
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Artist(s)
Defendants Metropolitan Opera Association
Zeffirelli, Franco
Other Verdi, Giuseppe
Short Description This sort of lawsuit is common among rock musicians--people are always falling over, slipping off stages and into holes, etc., which is no surprise given how drunk rockers often are. But this suit involves the fancy world of opera, specifically the Metropolitan Opera Association of New York and famed film director and opera producer, Franco Zeffirelli, not dirty stages and scruffy venues. Plaintiff was an opera singer who fell from a raised part of the stage onto the lower section below, sustaining serious injuries. Plaintiff sued the Association and Zeffirelli for negligently designing and maintaining the stage. Before suing Defendants directly, he filed a workers' compensation claim, from which medical bills were paid. But no amounts for lost compensation were granted. Defendants argued that Plaintiff was an "employee" according to the state workers' compensation statute, and thus workers comp claims were his exclusive remedy. The court found that Plaintiff was plainly an employee under the statute, which includes anyone "engaged in the performing arts who performs services as such for a . . . theatre . . . or similar establishment," unless employed by someone else. The words of the statute, legislative history, and existing precedent all supported a reading of the statute that included Plaintiff within the statutory category. Furthermore, Plaintiff already sued under workers comp auspices; he cannot claim the benefits without accepting the limitations of the statutes. Cause dismissed. - LSW

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2. Jurassic Tour Bus Accident
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Jurassic 5
Defendants Bus Driver(s)
Private Transporter(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Jurassic 5 leased a private bus for their upcoming tour, and the driver was hired by the band. When the bus had an accident that resulted in injuries to band, this lawsuit ensued, with the band arguing Defendant transportation company and bus driver were responsible. The Defendants argued that Plaintiffs, through their corporation, had employed the bus driver, and thus were his statutory "employer" at the time of the accident, according to the contract between them. If this were true, Plaintiffs would have no cause of action, as they would be responsible for his actions. While the court held the contract between the parties clearly made the driver the band's employee, it did not necessarily find the contract binding on the individual members themselves. Thus, the band members may have causes of action against the Defendants individually. The court reversed the lower court's judgment for Defendant on all counts. - LSW

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3. Alabama's Injured Roadie
Highest Court E.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 1993
Plaintiffs Sound Engineer(s)
Defendants Alabama
Music Promoter(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff works as the sound engineer for Alabama, who was contracted to perform at an Ace Hardware convention by Defendant music promoters. When Plaintiff was injured, he sued Defendants, arguing that as an employee of Alabama, Defendants were not his employers, but merely acted as agents for Ace, and thus he should be allowed to sue in tort, and not under worker's compensation. The court held that, according to the statute, Plaintiff was an employee of Defendants, and thus his action should be one of worker's compensation. - LSW

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4. Employee Injured at Rondstadt Gig
Highest Court Superior Court of Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1988
Plaintiffs Employee(s)
Defendants Asher, Peter
Equipment Transferer(s)
Music Manager(s)
Rondstadt, Linda
Sound-System Provider(s)
Other Peter and Gordon
Short Description A stage-hand working at a Linda Rondstadt concert, for whom Peter Asher (of the British-invasion duo Peter and Gordon) is manager, was injured while loading boxes into a truck in preparation for the show. Plaintiff sued the company in charge of lighting and stage effects, Showco, as well as Rondstadt and Asher, among others, alleging not just workers' compensation, but general tortious negligence. The court found that Showco was not his "employer" for purposes of the act, but that general tort rules of vicarious liability are relevant. However, since Plaintiff was not a passenger of the vehicle, "no-fault" provisions are not relevant (which might protect Defendant from passengers' injuries), and the case is remanded for damages calculation accordingly. - LSW

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5. Guitarist Sues Fats for Injuries
Highest Court Third Circuit
Year Ended 1983
Plaintiffs Back-Up Musician(s)
Defendants Domino, Fats
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is the former guitarist for Fats Domino's band, and was injured in an accident while on tour. He was advised by doctors to refrain from performing for three weeks. When he later rejoined the band, he was fired two different times for drug use and disagreeableness. He brought suit after the firings, initially in 1971, but didn't serve Domino until 1976, and the trial didn't start until the early 1980s. He requested tort damages and compensation under workers' disability benefits. The court denied his action for tort liability, finding no basis for the claim, but granted workers compensation for three weeks' pay, plus the medical expenses he could prove (immediately after the accident). Plaintiff wanted 500 weeks' compensation, alleging the injury continued to affect him for years afterward, and that it led to his problems with drugs and alcohol. The court found these claims unsupported; three weeks and one doctors visit is all the compensation Plaintiff got. - LSW

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6. Sideman's Workers' Comp Claim
Highest Court Court of Appeals of Michigan
Year Ended 1981
Plaintiffs Back-Up Musician(s)
Defendants Educational Institution(s)
Other Herman, Woody
Short Description Plaintiff was a member of Woody Herman's orchestra who sustained injuries while performing at Defendant's campus in Allendale, Michigan, while there for a musicians' workshop. Plaintiff initially filed for workers' compenstation, listing Herman as his "statutory employer," but Herman was uninsured in the state and unable to pay. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a suit against Defendant in federal court, which was dismissed, followed by a state suit against the same party. When the state's employment board found Defendant liable to Plaintiff for workers' compensation--not as his literal employer, but only as his "statutory employer" via their principal-agent relationship--Defendant sought to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging the workers' comp claim was Plaintiff's "exclusive remedy." Plaintiff pointed out that employees (in the literal, not merely statutory sense) had two causes of action against their employers, both in workers comp and tort, and that differential treatment for parties like Plaintiff was either 1) unintended by the statute or 2) in violation of constitutional principles. The court disagreed, and granted Defendant's motion for an accelerated judgment in their favor if the employment board's decision is upheld on appeal. - LSW

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7. Manager Wants Workers' Comp
Highest Court Supreme Court of Minnesota
Year Ended 1979
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Gypsy
State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The tour manager for the somewhat obscure progressive rock band, Gypsy, was paid $100 per week during their mid 1970s tours, and received injuries while inside their van parked along the side of the road after receiving a flat tire. Plaintiff attempted to return to regular work after his stint with the band ended, but found himself unable to complete the physical labor required by the position, and filed a claim for Workers' Compensation. The state employment board granted his request, and the appellate body affirmed, but the state's treasurer sued to stop payment from state funds, saying Gypsy was not an "employer" according to the statute. The state's highest court, however, disagreed, finding that the band, even though unincorporated, constituted an employer, according to the state's liberal construction guidelines regarding the term in the statute. Furthermore, the fact that Gypsy no longer existed and had no notice of Plaintiff's complaint also didn't matter. He got his comp. - LSW

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