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1. Latin Music Manager Steal Clients?
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Booking Agent(s)
Music Manager(s)
Defendants Alvares, Marcelo
Margison, Richard
Vargas, Ramon
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The facts of this lawsuit are not uncommon. Defendants are well-known international singers Ramon Vargas, Richard Margison, and Marcelo Alvarez, who entered a management contract with Plaintiff, a music management company. As is common, Defendants were handled by specific individuals at Plaintiff corporation, and these individuals later left (or were fired by) Plaintiff to manage artists on their own. Defendants decided to stay with their respective managers and thus left Plaintiff's roster. When Defendants performed at concerts that had been arranged while still under contract with Plaintiff, Plaintiff sued, arguing they should have been paid commissions on these performances, even though the appearances occurred after the artists left Plaintiff. The artists argued the clause was inapplicable, because the individuals responsible for booking the gigs were no longer employed by Plaintiff. On the parties' motions for summary judgment, the court found that contract interpretation required findings of fact, as did interpreting industry customs for post-termination commissions. Defendants' argument that termination of Defendants' managers constituted termination of the contract between Plaintiff and Defendant was precluded because Defendants did not raise the issue early enough. After a trial on the merits, the court found for Plaintiffs for around $700,000. Industry custom within the world of opera agreed with Plaintiffs' position and Defendants did not offer conflicting evidence. Plaintiffs were owed commissions for performances arranged during the parties' contractual arrangement but performed afterwards. - LSW


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2. Ex-Recording Artist vs. Usher and Alicia
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Arista Records
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Dre & Vidal
Dupri, Jermaine
EMI April Music
EMI Music
Film Studio(s)
Hitco Music
Keys, Alicia
La Face Records
Music Executive(s)
Music Manager(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Songwriter(s)
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Sony Music
Sony/ATV Music
Toby, Ryan
Universal Music
Usher
Zomba Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The facts of this immense lawsuit--which involves numerous defendants--are somewhat unique. Oftentimes, unknown artists sue huge companies and successful artists alleging copyright infringement, usually with little-to-no evidence that the defendants ever knew of the plaintiff or plaintiff's songs. In this case, Plaintiff was a songwriter and recording artist who signed briefly with Alicia Key's record label, a subsidiary of J Records, and began recording songs to be released. After some of the songs were finished, the record label offered to buy some of her songs for use with other artists on the label, such as Usher. Plaintiff, recognizing that the agreements would divest her of all royalty and ownership rights--she'd be a "ghost writer"--refused the deal. According to Plaintiff, Defendants nevertheless used her songs on Usher's album, "Confessions," as well as with other artists on the label's roster. Unfortunately for Plaintiff, her song, "Caught Up," which was one that Defendants wanted to use, was nothing like the Usher song of the same name. The court compared both lyrics and melody between the two songs and found that, despite Plaintiff's allegations and undeniable claims of access, the Usher song was not copied from Plaintiff's. Perhaps the phrase "caught up" was copied, but that in-and-of-itself was insufficient to comprise copyright infringement. With the sole federal claim dismissed, the court declined jurisdiction over the remaining state claims, and Plaintiff's action was disposed of entirely. - LSW


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3. Jacko's Manager Wants Commission
Highest Court District of Columbia Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Raymone, Bain
Defendants Jackson, Michael
MJJ Productions
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Raymone Bain is a high profile music manager, agent, publicist, and adviser, who has worked with many big-name celebrities, including Boyz II Men, Sammy Davis, Jr., former D.C. mayor Marion Barry, and, relevant to this suit, Michael Jackson. Bain signed on as Michael's publicist in 2003, but by 2006 had taken an expanded role in his affairs, signing agreements naming Bain his personal manager that guaranteed her 10% finder's fee for projects she initiated. After Bain initiated several such endeavors, such as the 25th anniversary of "Thriller" and Jackson's 2008 Grammy appearance, Jackson cut off all ties to Bain and refused to pay her finder's fee. Jackson died and Plaintiff sued his estate; Defendants pointed to a release Bain signed eight days before Jackson died, which appeared to absolve Defendants of liability. Plaintiff claimed the release was invalid for a number of reasons. First, the court found that Defendants had waived their right to arbitration, according to the contract, by filing an answer in the suit. Second, the court held that the release was clear and unambiguous and barred Plaintiff from pursuing, not just claims for past-due amounts, but any claims arising from the relationship, including unpaid finder's fees. Last, the court found that Plaintiff's arguments contesting the validity of the release--alleging both fraud in the inducement and mistake of fact--were unconvincing. Plaintiff was undoubtedly a very established and savvy businesswomen. Last, because the contract between the parties was valid, Bain's requests for equitable relief failed as well. - LSW


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4. Surviving Survivors Sue
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Survivor
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Peterik, Jim
Scotti Brothers Records
Short Description Survivor is, without a doubt, best-known for their massive hit, "Eye of the Tiger," that functioned as the theme song to Rocky III. However, they had other hits, and have continued to perform as a band up until today. Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are the band's founder and the band's corporate entity, while Defendants are members of the band who had been with the band at the time "Eye" was recorded and released. In the early days of the band, the members formed a joint venture, which allowed for replacement members to become full venturers in the agreement. Plaintiffs joined the band sometime thereafter. Prior to this lawsuit, in the mid-1990s, members of the band Survivor, including Plaintiffs but not Defendants, realized they had not been tendered royalties or statements by Scotti Brothers, the record label with which they had previously signed. Plaintiffs brought suit, and the parties settled, with 20% of royalties paid to songwriter/producer Jim Peterik and 80% paid to Survivor. However, Plaintiffs represented to Defendants, when Defendants re-joined the band in the late 1990s, that no royalties were forthcoming, because the band was indebted to their record label. This court opinion, which does not state the reason for Plaintiff's lawsuit, addresses Defendants' counterclaims alleging that Plaintiffs committed various wrongs (see the attached list of legal issues) relating to the concealment of Plaintiffs' settlement for royalty payments and subsequent receipt of those royalties. On Plaintiff's motion to dismiss counterclaims, the court found that Defendants introduced evidence, beyond the speculative level, that they were full members of the band (pursuant to the joint venture agreement and subsequent record contracts), and were thus owed royalties, which were not paid by Plaintiffs. Furthermore, Defendants' fraud claims were properly stated, even under heightened pleading requirements, because they alleged that Plaintiffs intentionally misled Defendants into believing no royalties were forthcoming, despite the settlement. Last, because Defendants learned of the nonpayment of royalties in 2009, when Peterik told them of his 20% interest, the statute of limitations had not run. In a related subsequent ruling, the court held Defendants were not judicially estopped from asserting claims against Plaintiffs for royalties, despite not having claimed the royalties or cited the contracts amongst the band members and with Scotti Brothers in a previous bankruptcy proceeding. - LSW


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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. Latin Star Cancels Contract
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Marketing Firm(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Rubio, Paulina
Other Mercedes Benz
Short Description Paulina Rubio is an internationally known Latin performer, and was scheduled to perform at Plaintiffs Mercedes Benz auto show. Plaintiff was hired directly by the Benz company, and when Rubio canceled two days before the performance, alleging various unreasonable and unbelievable justifications for the breach, Plaintiff was required to find a less successful replacement, which injured Plaintiff's reputation with Benz. Though Plaintiff was hired for several subsequent Benz automobile shows, their fee was allegedly less than it could have been if their bargaining position was not weakened. At trial, the court dismissed actions against all Defendants except Rubio, and further limited possible damages to the amounts Plaintiffs spent securing a replacement and the "discount" they'd granted Benz for the inconvenience. The jury found for Plaintiff against Rubio and awarded the maximum allowed, around $55,000. The appellate court affirmed; any damages other than the two easily calculated figures granted were too speculative and unproven. - LSW


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9. Nonpayment for Private Gig
Highest Court Superior Court of Connecticut
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Promoter(s)
Defendants Bennett, Tony
Talent Agent(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff entered into a contract with Defendant to have Tony Bennett perform at a private party in New Haven, Connecticut, for the sum of $250,000. Despite this contract, Defendant entered into another agreement with Creative Artists Agency to have Tony Bennett perform at the private party for $200,000. Plaintiff subsequently sued for breach of contract. The court struck down Defendant's cross-complaint, which alleged that Plaintiff induced the breach of contract himself. - SKR


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10. Contract Issues for Bollywood Tour
Highest Court E.D. Virginia
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Other Rai, Aishwarya
Roshan, Hrithik
SRK
Short Description Plaintiff and Defendant entered contract to promote "Bollywood" tours in San Francisco and the United Kingdom, featuring popular Indian celebrities Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, and SRK. Plaintiff is an established promoter of such events on an international level, and Defendants are local promoters, hired to handle issues "on the ground," while Plaintiff, it appears, managed the events from afar. Many issues arose during the implementation of their concert tours, largely regarding Defendants insufficient monetary contributions to the project and lack of proper payments made to Plaintiffs. After Defendants pulled out of both the San Francisco and U.K. shows, Plaintiffs sued on the U.K. contracts, alleging repudiation as well as insufficient payment and performance. The court held for Plaintiffs; Defendants had certainly entered an oral contract which they materially breached. Plaintiffs were awarded over $1.5 million in damages, though not as against the Defendants individually, but only in their corporate capacity. - LSW


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11. Ex-Beatboxer vs. Jazzy and Smith
Highest Court Third Circuit
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Ready Rock C
Defendants DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Smith, Will
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was an original member of group formed by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, employed by the band as a beat-boxer and called "Ready Rock C." Rock C sued Will Smith for supposed nonpayment according to an oral contract Plaintiff claims took place upon the group signing their record deal in 1986. Only Jazzy and Smith actually signed the agreement, but Plaintiff averred he was promised equal participation. Plaintiff later fell on hard times, while Smith and Jazzy achieved international stardom; Smith allegedly gave Plaintiff periodic monetary gifts totaling $26,000, which Ready Rock argued were admissions he was owed money. The court agreed with Smith, however, finding the payments were gifts, and there is no evidence that the alleged oral contract ever occurred. The trial court further dismissed Plaintiffs contract claims, as barred by the statutes of limitations, and the appellate court affirmed, extending the rationale to include his equitable request for "quantum meruit" (i.e. the value of his contribution). Plaintiff left the group in 1990, and waited too long to bring suit. Judgment for Will. - LSW


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12. Former Employee vs. Puffy (I)
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Bad Boy Entertainment
City Entity and/or Official(s)
Combs, Sean
Police Officer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description A two-time former employee of Bad Boy, Sean Combs' entertainment company, was terminated but given "contact sheets" that contained job leads with other music industry companies. The Plaintiff did not open the envelope until some time later and discovered the envelope contained Combs' personal info, so the Plaintiff contacted Combs to return the sheets. After the meeting, Combs became suspicious that Plaintiff had stolen his Grammy award. Shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff, a diabetic, received a phone call to attend what he thought was a job interview. He arrived at the address to learn it was a police station, where an officer questioned him for hours concerning the contact sheets and missing Grammy Award. The Plaintiff wound up being transported to the hospital for diabetic shock multiple times, and was charged with several counts. The Plaintiff sued Combs and the police. He alleged that Combs conspired to violate his civil rights with the arrest. The Court determined Combs had not acted in concert with a state actor to deprive the Plaintiff of his rights. While Combs may have filed a false report, that would not give rise to the claim the Plaintiff was making. The court then dismissed the various charges of conspiracy and false imprisonment. - JMC


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13. Kurupt's Ex-Managers Want Dough
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Music Producer(s)
Defendants Death Row Records
Dr. Dre
Knight, Suge
Kurupt the Kingpen
Music Manager(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Snoop Dogg
Other Daz Dillinger
Tha Dogg Pound
Short Description The former manager/producer for rap artist Kurupt the Kingpen sued the artist and his label after not receiving compensation for career support he'd provided. The jury returned an award for Plaintiff for over $14 million, but the court reduced it to $5 million, which the appellate court affirmed. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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14. Songwriter: "Laws, Lopez, L.L. Copied!"
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants CBS Records
Elektra Records
EMI Music
Epic Records
Individual(s)
Laws, Debra
LL Cool J
Lopez, Jennifer
Music Producer(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Nathan, David
Riddick, Makeba
Rooney, Corey
Sony Music
Swedien, Bruce
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Related to "Debra Laws vs. J-Lo & L.L.," this lawsuit was brought by a songwriter alleging to have co-written Debra Laws's early-80s hit song, "Very Special," which was purportedly sampled by Jennifer Lopez in her recent hit song "All I Have." The original was registered in other songwriters' names, though Plainitff sued, essentially alleging co-authorship but stating his complaints as negligence, civil rights, quantum meruit, and disparagement, suing not just Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J (who performed it), but also its purported authors, its registered copyright owners, Debra Laws, and the music companies who released both tracks. Plaintiff's complaint was badly written, and, when he failed to amend the complaint properly, was dismissed with prejudice. Defendants moved for attorneys' fees. The court granted Defendants' request, calculating their wasted money at $20,299.90. - LSW


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15. One Hit Wonder's Courtroom Battle
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 1998
Plaintiffs Artist(s)
Defendants Snow
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description While success in the industry was short for the artist Snow and his vocalist MC Shan, both famous for the song "Informer," dealings surrounding the song nevertheless prompted litigation. Plaintiff was a musical contributor to Snow's work and an on-stage DJ, who sued when he discovered he was being paid less and was excluded from the terms of the major label record deal, and alleged Defendant breached terms of an oral partnership and contractual obligations. The court looked at the facts regarding the band's formation, signing, and touring to determine whether there ever was an oral contract establishing a partnership, according to established principles, or if Plaintiff was really just an "employee," not an equal in the enterprise. Finding that there never was an agreement to share profits, which is an essential element of partnership formation, the trial court dismissed (and the court of appeals affirmed) Plaintiff's claims. - LSW


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16. Randy Travis TV Show Falls Apart
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1995
Plaintiffs Television Producer(s)
Defendants Television Producer(s)
Other Travis, Randy
Short Description Plaintiff is an established television producer, brokering a deal between Mickey Rooney's associates and Randy Travis, putting together a movie called "The Legend of O.B. Taggart." Defendants allegedly orally agreed to certain conditions and understandings with Plaintiff, but dismissed him once he had done what he said he would. In his suit for breach of the oral contract, Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and the court found only those who had met with Plaintiff in N.Y., where the court sits, are subject to the court's jurisdiction. - LSW


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17. Early Mariah Producer Stiffed
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 1993
Plaintiffs Toland, Chris
Defendants Marguilies, Ben
Recording Studio(s)
Other Carey, Mariah
Short Description An early investor and partner who helped develop Mariah Carey's career sued other partners for nonpayment of royalties owed on an alleged oral contract. Defendant's motion to dismiss denied. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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18. Scorpions Manager: "I Was Stung!"
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1991
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Scorpions
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description In some ways, this case is as classic as "Rock You Like a Hurricane," the Defendant band's most famous song. Here, the German corporation responsible for the Scorpions, and the individual members, purportedly breached a management contract with Plaintiff and failed to pay royalties on moneys earned after the breach. The court, without discussing the merits of the case, refused Plaintiff's request for an attachment, finding Plaintiff could not illustrate likelihood of success of the merits. - LSW


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19. Jimmie Rodgers vs. Record Label
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1990
Plaintiffs Rodgers, Jimmie
Defendants Levy, Morris
Roulette Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is one of three well-known musicians of a similar name, along with the early 20th century "hillbilly" singer whose spelling is identical and the African-American blues artist named Jimmy Rogers. In this case, Rodgers sued Roulette Records, his former record label, for drastic underpayment (in essence nonpayment) of royalties according to contracts written in the 1960s. While many of Plaintiff's actions were blocked by statutes of limitation, recent unpaid royalties were not. After litigation began, Defendant tendered $9,000, which the District Court counted towards the $10,584 award it granted for the immediately preceding six years not blocked by statutes of limitation. - LSW


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20. Rossington-Collins' Lawyers Sue
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1984
Plaintiffs Lawyer(s)
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Rossington-Collins Band
Other Lynyrd Skynyrd
Short Description Lawyers for the band sued for quantum meruit and other expenses incurred in representation of the band. Judgment for attorneys. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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