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1. 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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2. 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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3. Starr & NKOTB Owners Bankrupt (I)
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 1996
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Starr, Maurice
Other New Kids on the Block
Short Description This lawsuit arose from the bankruptcy proceeding of Jeffrey Furst, one of the original investors and promoters of the New Kids on the Block, along with Maurice Starr and James Martorano. According to Furst, the three of them entered into a joint venture agreement whereby Furst and Martorano would secure investment capital to support their endeavor with the group, in return for which they'd all split royalties earned from the band's success. The band, of course, went on to become immensely successful. After the band broke up and Furst filed for bankruptcy, he sought to classify Starr as his debtor, owing money for royalties made under the venture agreement. Starr sought to dismiss the complaint, alleging the oral joint venture agreement was unenforceable, barred by the Statute of Frauds, i.e. not performable within one year. However, the court construed the Statute literally; only those contracts that "cannot" (essentially, under any circumstances) be performed within one year are barred. Since the New Kids' success was, hopefully to extend beyond one year, it may have been unlikely to complete within the year. But that is insufficient to place the agreement within the Statute. Thus, Starr was held to be a debtor to Furst, according to the valid joint venture agreement reached between the three men. And what of the New Kids themselves, you ask? Well, says the court, they were "portrayed at trial as a bunch of lip-synching, girl-chasing, third rate vocalists-and this would appear to be the judgment of history." - LSW


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4. Who Gets to be the Vels?
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1986
Plaintiffs Former Band Member(s)
Defendants Polygram Records
Vels
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Though their name sounds like fifties doo-wop, The Vels were an American "new wave" group, briefly signed to Mercury Records (a subsidiary of Polygram) during the mid-1980s, at the tail end of the new wave phenomenon. Perhaps this lawsuit was among the reasons their career was so short-lived. After their first album was released in 1984, two of the three members dismissed the third, then filmed a music video and recorded a second album without him. Plaintiff, the dismissed member, sued the band and their record label, alleging the music video, which featured his voice but not his image, constituted false designation and false description under the Lanham Act. He also included numerous additional claims, such as breach of joint venture agreement and fiduciary duties, tortious interference, and others. Regarding the Lanham charge, the court held that the claims against the record label must be dismissed. Polygram contracted for the rights to use the name, "The Vels," in connection with music provided by the band's joint venture, regardless of who was a joint venturer at the time. More potently, it was authorized to terminate the contract regarding any "leaving member" of the group, and to continue with the remaining members. Plaintiff, whether he liked it or not, was a "leaving member" in Polygram's view. With the sole federal claim dismissed, all other state law claims were dismissed as well. - LSW


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