December 9, 2023

Judge tosses $7.3M award, grants new trial in Lady Gaga Case

Lady_Gaga,_February_29,_2012,_Cambridge,_M-Vert-201510011550By Charles Toutant, From New Jersey Law Journal

The producer credited with launching the career of Lady Gaga has been granted a new trial after he was ordered to pay $7.3 million to a talent scout who introduced him to the singer.

Rob Fusari is entitled to a new trial because of an erroneous ruling at his first trial, allowing the jury to hear about an accusation against Fusari by Lady Gaga concerning their personal relationship, U.S. District Judge Jose Linares of the District of New Jersey ruled Sept. 30. The nature of the accusation is unclear because the opinion was extensively redacted, but Linares said he failed to properly analyze the issue before allowing the jury to hear the disputed information in a reading of Lady Gaga’s deposition testimony.

Linares granted Fusari a new trial in an opinion filed under seal Sept. 3. The redacted version was made public Sept. 30, after the parties were allowed to review it.

Fusari was ordered in November 2014 to pay the $7.3 million to Wendy Starland for introducing him to Stefani Germanotta, the artist who became known as Lady Gaga. Starland claimed Fusari asked her in 2005 to find him a female performer under 25 who was similar to Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of the band The Strokes, according to court documents. Starland introduced Germanotta to Fusari in 2006, and she claimed Fusari promised to give her a share of any profits he realized from developing the singer’s career. In 2010, Starland sued Fusari after he failed to pay her, claiming breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

Fusari moved for a new trial March 9, taking issue with several evidentiary rulings. He later filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, triggering an automatic stay of Starland’s suit, but the U.S. Bankruptcy Court partially lifted the stay for the sole purpose of allowing Fusari’s motion for a new trial to be heard.

Starland claimed at trial that details of the breakup of the relationship between Germanotta and Fusari were relevant to her breach of fiduciary duty claims. Starland claimed that Fusari breached his fiduciary to her in their joint venture when he “engaged in a personal relationship with Germanotta which soured and terminated the Germanotta-Fusari working relationship and therefore terminated plaintiff’s working relationship with Germanotta and resulting profits therefrom.”

Evidence at trial about the personal relationship between Germanotta and Fusari “seemed relevant,” Linares said.

But on the motion for a new trial, Linares found the evidence at issue had “little to no probative value,” in light of other evidence presented at trial. Redactions in Linares’ opinion make the nature of the other evidence unclear.

“When considering the alleged [redacted] there is a very real risk such evidence could lead the jury to make its decision on an improper basis. Essentially, the jury would be so overwhelmed by the notion [redacted] that it would find for plaintiff based on repulsion to the alleged acts of defendant,” Linares’ opinion said.

In addition, Linares said he failed to state his reasons under R. 403 for denying objections by lawyers for Germanotta and Fusari to the reading of the portion of Germanotta’s deposition testimony that made the allegation against Fusari.

William Deni Jr. of Gibbons, who represented Fusari on the motion for a new trial, and Laura Scileppi of Dunnegan & Scileppi in New York, who represents Starland, both declined to comment.

Linares also disclosed in the ruling that he offered to recuse himself from the case when he learned in June that his wife, a realtor, was assisting a homeowner with the sale of a home to Deni. The arrangement could potentially result in a payment of commission to the judge’s wife by the seller, but not by Deni, Linares said. The judge asked lawyers for Fusari and Starland and the bankruptcy trustee in the case to state any concerns about that arrangement, and none took issue with his involvement, Linares said.

IMAGE: Lady Gaga, February 29, 2012, Cambridge, MA.SOURCE: DWNews

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