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1. Does Madonna Owe Money?
Highest Court M.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Film Studio(s)
Madonna
Maverick Films
Music Manager(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs lent money to Madonna and her film company, Maverick Films, as well as various other individuals and entities associated with Madonna's film endeavors, which were in need of financing. After Defendants did not repay Plaintiffs' loans, Plaintiff sued all the parties for contract breach, unjust enrichment, detrimental reliance, unfair trade practices, and conversion. Maverick Films defaulted, and a default judgment was entered against them. (Various other procedural and evidentiary rulings were undertaken during 2009-2010, which are not discussed herein). On Madonna's and her manager's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the court found in their favor. First, her manager had not submitted to jurisdiction by appearing at Maverick's default hearing, because he contested to jurisdiction all along. Second, there was no jurisdiction over either Madonna or her manager, neither individually nor as corporate officers. Their personal presence within Louisiana was minimal, Madonna having performed there sometime in the 1980s, and their recent contacts with the state were all within their capacities as corporate officers, which does not subject them to personal jurisdiction as individuals. Furthermore, the court would not "pierce the corporate veil" and find jurisdiction over them personally, because Plaintiff did not adequately illustrate that their corporations were mere alter egos or vehicles by which Madonna and Co. perpetuated fraud. Though a default judgment was entered against Maverick, the cause was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction as to Madonna, et. al. - LSW


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2. 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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3. Yodeling for Royalties
Highest Court W.D. Texas
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Estate of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Defendants Antone's Records
Music Executive(s)
Record Label(s)
Other Walser, Don
Watermelon Records
Short Description Country musician Don Walser, known for his distinctive yodeling, signed an agreement with Watermelon Records, a little-known Austin-based country music record label, in 1994, only four years before the label went bankrupt and its assets were purchased by Defendant, Antone's Records, who, as luck would have it, later filed for bankruptcy itself. The latter bankruptcy underlies this dispute, brought by Walser's estate and family, alleging various causes of action against Antone's and associated entities, including breach of contract and fiduciary duties, fraud, and copyright infringement, requesting rescission, constructive trust, and piercing of the corporate veil. According to the court, it is undisputed that Defendants failed to tender appropriate royalties and royalty-statements to Walser, after assuming Watermelon's contracts. Though Plaintiffs were unable to state claims arising from Watermelon Records' bankruptcy and failure to pay Walser, the court allowed breach of contract claims against Defendants arising from their own failure to pay. The court found that Walser had performed fully under the agreement, but that Defendants plainly failed to live up to their part of the bargain, and did not cure their breach within 30 days of being warned by Walser's attorney; in this regard, Defendants were liable for around $30,000. Because monetary remedies were adequate, rescission of the fully-performed contract was not allowed, and, further, Plaintiff's claims for fraud and copyright infringement failed too. Further still, Plaintiffs were unable to show that any form of fiduciary relationship arose between Walser and the various record labels with whom he was contractually tied, inter alia, because Texas law has not found such a relationship between artist and label, and no relationship of trust otherwise existed. The court refused to hold the record labels' executives personally liable, finding that traditional doctrines like the "alter ego" test did not apply. Though most claims were denied, the contract breach claim resulted in a $30,000 award. - LSW


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4. Erre XI vs. Luny and Yankee
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Artist(s)
Music Producer(s)
Songwriter(s)
Defendants Daddy Yankee
El Cartel Records
LT's Benjamin Records
Luny Tunes
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Universal Music Group
Other Erre XI
Short Description Plaintiffs are a group a songwriters and producers who were, in various ways, involved in the songwriting or production of the album, "Luny Tunes Presents: Erre XI," which was an album, released by reggaeton production duo Luny Tunes, featuring a musical duo called Erre XI, which was assembled by Luny Tunes. Plaintiffs, based in Springfield, MA, were tapped by Luny Tunes to participate in the album's creation, and were flown to Puerto Rico to embark on the creative process. Plaintiffs allege that their work was not only central to the Erre XI album, but also an album by Daddy Yankee, and that, not only were they not paid appropriate royalties, but their work was falsely attributed to Yankee and Tunes. Plaintiffs alleged multiple causes of action against multiple defendants, including copyright infringement and vicarious infringement, infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract. In this opinion, the court denied Universal's motion to dismiss the emotional distress, vicarious infringement, and breach of contract claims, finding Plaintiffs' claims sufficient to require additional fact-finding. However, Daddy Yankee, and his associated parties, were held not to be within the personal jurisdiction of the court (specific or general), which refused to "pierce the corporate veil" and find Yankee's corporate activities were attributable to Yankee personally. - LSW


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5. Manilow Show Falls Apart
Highest Court E.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Theatrical Producer(s)
Other Manilow, Barry
Short Description Though not directly involving Barry Manilow, this case is a classic contract breach lawsuit that illustrates many of the common issues and defenses in such cases. Defendant was a theatrical producer and was putting together a Broadway show called "Harmony," about Barry Manilow and featuring his music (presumably Defendant had Manilow's consent). Plaintiff loaned $100,000 to Defendant's LLC, which was formed to organize the performance. For some reason not explained, the show did not proceed and Plaintiff's loan was not repaid. When Plaintiff brought suit, Defendant unleashed an array of defenses to invalidate Plaintiff's claim. Defendant claimed the venue was inappropriate or inconvenient, that there was no personal jurisdiction, and that the contract was unenforceable according to the Statute of Frauds. On Defendant's motion to dismiss, the court found he had "purposefully availed" himself of the jurisdiction by transacting business there, so personal jurisdiction was appropriate; Plaintiff's chosen venue was the place of negotiation, so it was appropriate; the forum was not so inconvenient to the parties and witnesses as to necessitate overriding Plaintiff's choice of forum; there was sufficient evidence of "meeting of the minds" to render the agreement enforceable at this stage of litigation; and the contract was performable within one year, so the Statute of Frauds was inapplicable. However, Plaintiff's motions for summary judgment were also denied. The court found that the emails sent between the parties were insufficient to summarily establish that a "meeting of the minds" did indeed exist. Furthermore, it appears Plaintiff contracted with Defendant's LLC, not Defendant personally, so his action could not, on summary judgment at least, succeed against Defendant. - LSW


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6. Photographer: "Marley Photos Are Mine!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Photographer(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Music Merchandiser(s)
Other Marley, Bob
Short Description In a different case, "Bob Marley Bootleggers Busted," Defendant A.V.E.L.A., a music merchandiser, was sued by the exclusive licensee of Bob Marley's publicity rights and trademarks for improperly using Marley's likeness and names on various merchandise. This related case was brought by the photographer who provided the infringing photographs to A.V.E.L.A. After the first lawsuit erupted, A.V.E.L.A. withheld royalty payments to Plaintiff, alleging any payments he was due to receive were offset by their litigation costs from the Marley lawsuit. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants' legal issues were unrelated to his own responsibilities under the parties' agreements, and costs should not have been counted against him. Plaintiff asked for and was granted a preliminary injunction preventing A.V.E.L.A. from using moneys owed to Plaintiff to cover legal costs from the other suit. On appeal, the injunction was affirmed. The injunction was not overly broad; though the licensing agreement dictated amounts Plaintiff was to be paid, Defendants were not able to show that these were the only amounts he would be granted if successful. Furthermore, the appellate court did not find the trial court abused its discretion in finding both that Plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief and that there was a reasonable probability that Plaintiff would prevail on his claim. - LSW


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7. Midnight Idol's Pilot: "Pay Me!"
Highest Court D. Nevada
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Airplane Pilot(s)
Defendants Chartered Airliner(s)
Newton, Wayne
Other Business Entity of Artist(s)
MGM Grand Hotel
Short Description Wayne Newton. The Midnight Idol. Mr. Las Vegas. Mr. Entertainment. As one of the most well-known and successful entertainers in American history, it is unsurprising he's had many financial difficulties over the years. This recent lawsuit was brought by a former airplane pilot, who was hired by Newton in 2003 for a minimum of 10 years, but was terminated shortly thereafter. Plaintiff and Newton reached a settlement agreement, which Newton subsequently breached, and Plaintiff was awarded almost $1/2 million in damages. To satisfy the judgment, Plaintiff obtained garnishments and levies against various moneys owed to Newton by the MGM Grand and the company that paid Newton's weekly salary. MGM filed an interpleader action to determine who was owed money it had collected for Newton's performance. Plaintiff filed an interpleader as well, and Newton's employer filed a motion to intervene, alleging its assets could not be garnished, since it was not a judgment debtor but just an employer of a debtor. First, the court found that the employer's motion to intervene should be granted, since its interests were directly affected by the interpleaders previously filed. However, the employer's motion to quash the garnishment was denied; though there was no reason to "pierce the corporate veil" and find Newton and his employer were one and the same, Newton was an employee, president, and director of the company, so Plaintiff could properly garnish his earnings within the company's possession. - LSW


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8. Snoop's Joint & The Butterfly Effect
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Proprietor(s)
Defendants No Defendants on file
Other Snoop Dogg
Short Description The owner of a club at which Snoop was supposed to play had to file for bankruptcy. Among other reasons for the owner's financial situation, he cited the Snoop concert, saying Snoop showed up over three hours late, lit a joint that set of smoke detectors, then left without ever playing, resulting in an angry crowd and bad publicity. It appears Snoop settled for $12,000, but the club filed for Bankruptcy anyway. That's the Snoop we all know and love. - LSW


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9. Counterfeit Metal, Mode, and Moz Merch
Highest Court E.D. New York
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Bravado International
Defendants Bootlegger(s)/Counterfeiter(s)
Individual(s)
Website Proprietor(s)
Other Clash
Cradle of Filth
Depeche Mode
Guns n' Roses
Iron Maiden
Korn
Led Zeppelin
Morrissey
Motörhead
Short Description The Defendants are some businesses and people who were illegally creating t-shirts infringing on Korn, Iron Maiden, Guns 'N' Roses, and Depeche Mode. The Plaintiffs, who hold the licenses for merchandising in the U.S. for many bands, filed for a preliminary injunction, which the court granted. In 2004, the Plaintiffs had filed a suit in California against t-shirt bootleggers and learned that these defendants were the manufacturers, obtaining a judgment against them in 2005. In 2008, the Plaintiffs purchased bootleg shirts from the Defendants' website. The U.S. Marshals seized silk screens, t-shirts, and business records. The Plaintiffs can obtain a preliminary injunction if they can show irreparable harm and either a likelihood of success or a balance of hardships and a chance at successful litigation. To win at the trademark infringement, they had to show a protected trademark and that consumers would be confused by the Defendants' knockoffs. The Court found there to be little question that counterfeit products, by their nature, cause confusion to consumers. - JMC


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10. Singer Owes Unhappy Investor
Highest Court Court of Appeals of Georgia
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Gardner, Dan
Music Manager(s)
Music Producer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Dan Gardner is a religious musician ("gospel," according to his Rhapsody page), and is a Defendant in this lawsuit, alongside his manager and music producer. Plaintiff was approached by Defendants to invest up to $150,000 in Gardner's career, which was to be used for the recording, release, and distribution of Gardner's upcoming album. Plaintiff provided the first $50,000, but the specifics of this amount was contested by the parties. Plaintiff alleged this was an "advance," or a "conditional investment" that was to be returned if the parties could not reach a formal agreement. Defendants alleged this money was the first of his investments, and was not returnable. Furthermore, Plaintiff characterized the money as a "loan," while Defendants said it was a "gift." The Georgia trial court granted Plaintiff's summary judgment against Defendants' corporation and Defendants individually. On appeal, the Court of Appeals partially affirmed, saying no contract was formed, and thus Defendants could not claim the payment was only one of three according to the unformed contract. Furthermore, Defendants failed to show how the breakdown in negotiations implied Plaintiff's initial investment--which was clearly meant to be part of a contract yet-to-be-formed--was forfeited when the contract did not materialize. However, the appellate court found Defendants were not individually liable; only their corporation, with which Plaintiff arranged the investment, was liable for the unreturned amount. (It should be noted, Defendants could have claimed promissory estoppel, but failed to do so at trial and thus could not raise this as a defense at the appellate level.) - LSW


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11. Travelocity Theme Copies Another
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Advertising Producer(s)
Defendants Brock, Jeffrey
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Defendant, Jeffrey Brock, composed music for Travelocity, but his composition infringed another copyrighted song, and Plaintiffs had to defend themselves in that suit. After an arbitration award in favor of Plaintiffs, Defendant incorporated and sought to deny personal jurisdiction on account of his company's actions not being equivalent to his own. The court found the corporation to be an "alter ego," and thus the court held there was personal jurisdiction. - LSW


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12. No Parking At N SYNC Gig = Lawsuit
Highest Court Appellate Court of Illinois
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Concert Attendee(s)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
N SYNC
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was a concert attendee for an N SYNC concert at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. Assuming the trip would take 25-30 minutes, Plaintiffs left at 6:30 for the 7:30 concert, but were not parked until 9:30, after encountering traffic and parking issues well beyond what they'd anticipated. Plaintiff sued, attempting to bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of the ticket purchasers who'd missed portions of the show (some of whom wrote letters), alleging contract breaches and common law consumer torts. After Plaintiffs failed to agree to Defendants' proposed settlement, the court refused to certify the class, holding there were no predominate issues of fact between those who arrived five minutes late and those who missed the entire show. The band members were not susceptible to personal jurisdiction, and, furthermore, Plaintiff's claims were substantively inadequate; there were no contractual guarantees or misrepresentations to form the basis for Plaintiff's complaints. Icing on the cake: Plaintiff already won a small-claims arbitration award against them for the price of the tickets. Perhaps assuming 25-30 minutes to drive to and park at a 40,000 person event was a bit unreasonable. - LSW


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13. Record Labels Fight Over Pitbull
Highest Court S.D. Florida
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Music Producer(s)
Slip-N-Slide Records
Defendants TVT Records
Other Luke Records
Pitbull
Short Description Slip-N-Slide sued TVT for contract violation, among other assorted causes of action. Judgment for Plaintiff, but amount remitted on appeal. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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14. Hendrix Company Demands Payment
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Experience Hendrix
Defendants Auctioneer(s)
Chalpin, Ed
PPX Enterprises
Other Hendrix, Jimi
Short Description PPX Enterprises, run by Ed Chalpin (a common figure in Hendrix-family litigation), was the owner of copyrights in 33 Hendrix compositions and sought to sell them at an upcoming auction. The relationship with Chalpin dates back to the mid-1960s, when Hendrix signed with Chalpin's PPX record label. When Hendrix switched to another label, Chalpin was given rights to numerous Hendrix recordings by a settlement in 1968 (see "Jimi's Record Label Sues Capitol"). In the early 1970s, PPX and Chalpin were sued by Hendrix's Estate in England for royalties owed from these songs, which was found in the estate's favor. Plaintiffs had difficulty collecting this amount, and a new judgment was entered in England in the early 2000s. When the Hendrixes sought to enforce the judgment domestically, Defendant was found liable for nearly $1 million to Plaintiffs, but Defendant conveyed the copyrights to a third party company (also controlled by Chalpin) for a single dollar, which put the songs up for auction. The estate sought a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and an order of attachment to proceeds, hoping to prevent sale of the copyrighted compositions by the new Chalpin company at the upcoming auction. While the court granted a limited restraining order, it also ordered the auctioneer to pay Plaintiff the amount owed from the upcoming auction. The court found Defendants' transfer was fraudulent and found Defendants were, once again, evading payment. Since Plaintiff's success was likely and irreparable harm was imminent, the court converted the restraining order into preliminary injunction and ordered an attachment of the money obtained via the auction in an amount equal to the outstanding judgment which Plaintiff was already owed. - LSW


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15. O'Jays vs. Philly Int'l Records
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs O'Jays
Defendants Gamble & Huff
Music Publisher(s)
Philadelphia International Records
Record Label(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Band members sued the owners of Philadelphia International Records for royalties. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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16. Problems Distributing Bowie
Highest Court Seventh Circuit
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Defries, Tony
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Rykodisc Records
Other Bowie, David
Short Description Plaintiff is a music company that purchased interests in David Bowie recordings. The purchase included a prior-existing a cause of action against Defendants. Plaintiff's predecessor's allegedly received a license from Defendants to distribute the Bowie tunes in question, but Defendants repudiated the deal and sought to prevent Plaintiff from exploiting their rights under the agreement. Though most of Plaintiff's causes of action were disposed of summarily by the court, the claim for breach of contract was allowed to proceed, despite Plaintiff's "tardy" service of process. However, even after allowing the contract claim to proceed, Plaintiff failed to prosecute the case, and it was once again dismissed. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reconsidered the dismissal, but affirmed, finding diversity jurisdiction existed and the court had the right to re-evaluate Plaintiff's argument for its delayed prosecution. Unfortunately, "my lawyer was depressed" is a bad excuse. - LSW


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17. Charity Loses Spears and Timberlake
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2002
Plaintiffs Charitable Organization(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Other Spears, Britney
Timberlake, Justin
Short Description The facts aren't made abundantly clear in the this short case opinion, but some can be easily surmised. Plaintiff is a non-profit, charitable organization that helps celebrities establish their own foundations, who had fostered relationships with both Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Spears founded a camp, which is mentioned in the opinion. Defendants include several different members of the board of directors who allegedly interfered with the relationships budding between Plaintiff and the stars. It is unclear precisely how they did so. Here, Defendants tried to argue no personal jurisdiction existed regarding Plaintiff's claims. That's kind of ridiculous considering, you know, they're on Plaintiff's board of directors. Defendants' motions dismissed. - LSW


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18. A License to "Spoon"
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2000
Plaintiffs Tuff City Records
Tuff-N-Rumble Management
Defendants Sugar Hill Music
Sugar Hill Records
Other Boogie Down Productions
Kelly, R.
Mack, Craig
Monifah
Spoonie Gee
Short Description This is a confusing and multi-angled case; the true holder of copyrights for Spoonie Gee's "Spoonin' Rap" sued another entity (1) for illegally 'licensing' use of the song as samples in works by Craig Mack and Monifah, and (2) interfering with Plaintiff's relationships and copyright licenses, in songs by Boogie Down Productions and R. Kelly. Multiple opinions were rended on various issues. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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19. Problems With Jacksons Special
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 1997
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Music Merchandiser(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Jackson 5/The Jacksons
Jackson, Michael
Music Promoter(s)
Television Producer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The Jacksons entered a contract for a television show on NBC showcasing talents of the Jackson family (minus LaToya, whose psychic powers were apparently unneeded). Obviously, securing Michael's promise to appear and perform at the event was of the utmost importance to everyone, and thus the producer ensured NBC that Michael would appear. However, Michael later made clear his unequivocal intention not to perform, and NBC cancelled the show, leaving the show producer's fee of $375,000 unpaid and its $1 million in expenditures unrecouped. The event was rescheduled, including Michael, but, for some reason not explained, was financially unsuccessful. The producer sued the Jackson family entity and received a default judgment, but was unable to collect, because their company was insolvent. Plaintiff, the organizer, brought an interpleader action to determine the respective liabilities of the show's producer and the Jacksons. The producer sought payment from the Jacksons individually, including Michael, and their liability is the subject of this opinion. Regarding the original canceled performance, the court found that Michael never actually made any enforceable promises to the producer that Michael would participate. His interaction was with Jermaine and the Jacksons alone, and thus the producer unreasonably relied on Michael's intent to appear, which the court characterized as "gratuitous," not contractual. The producer also failed to establish promissory estoppel. Michael didn't owe anything. Furthermore, the rest of the Jacksons were not individually liable either. While their corporation was surely run quite poorly, the "alter ego" doctrine was inapplicable; the corporation maintained minimal formalities and did not commingle funds to a significant extent. The producer was broke and out of luck. Ironically, if LaToya had been involved at the outset, perhaps she would have foreseen this, and the whole mess could have been averted. - LSW


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20. Judds vs. Tour Manager
Highest Court Court of Appeals of Tennessee
Year Ended 1997
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Judds
Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Defendant was the tour manager for the Judds, Wynona and Naomi, the famous singing duo. Plaintiffs sued their manager for diverting funds towards himself and for running business so as to maximize his own profit, not their own. While the trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, the court of appeals reversed, saying there were genuine issues of material fact to be litigated regarding Defendants' behavior. Among Plaintiffs' numerous claims were multiple forms of fiduciary breaches and contractual issues, all requiring an examination and discussion of the complex relationship between the parties, particularly who owed which duties, and whether those duties were met. The court of appeals, in reversing the lower court's judgment for Defendant, acknowledged, "this case presents a complicated mass of factual allegations dealing with a somewhat unique business," finding summary judgment wholly inappropriate under the circumstances. - LSW


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