June 18, 2021

Judge won’t cut $7.3m award for discovering Lady Gaga

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Lady Gaga-Article-201407151152By Charles Toutant, From New Jersey Law Journal

The producer credited with launching Lady Gaga’s career has lost his bid to trim the $7.3 million he was ordered to pay a talent scout for introducing him to the singer.

U.S. District Judge Jose Linares of the District of New Jersey denied Rob Fusari’s motion for remittitur of the November 2014 verdict, rejecting his claim that the amount of the award to plaintiff Wendy Starland was not supported by the evidence in the case.

Linares said the motion for remittitur failed because the jury’s award was rationally based on the evidence presented in the case. The award “cannot be said to have been excessive or clearly unsupported by the evidence or indicative of manifest injustice and is not shocking to the court,” Linares said.

The judge entered a final judgment for Starland in the amount of $7.34 million on Feb. 4, despite objections raised by Fusari. He took issue with dollar amounts and the phrasing of questions presented to jurors on the verdict form. But Linares noted that the verdict form was approved by both parties during trial.

Fusari argued that $108,500 in expenses he incurred during the search for Gaga should be deducted from the amount paid to Starland. Linares said that, based on the evidence presented, the jury might reasonably find that his expenses were not entitled to deduction, since Starland was not reimbursed for her expenses. The judge also rejected Fusari’s claims that the final judgment should be reduced to reflect his earnings for composing songs for Gaga, which Starland did not collaborate on, and should exclude his earnings for serving as a creative producer for individual songs.

The case stems from an agreement between Starland and Fusari in 2005 to find a young female singer, sign her to a contract with a record label and share the resulting revenues equally, according to court documents. Starland, a singer and producer from Hollywood, Calif., testified that she was instructed to find a female singer under age 25 who was reminiscent of Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the band The Strokes.

Starland claimed she fulfilled her part of the deal by finding Stefani Germanotta, the singer now known as Lady Gaga, but Fusari did not pay her anything for her efforts to find Gaga, which entailed eight months of searching, court documents said.

Linares also turned down Starland’s request for a constructive trust to be imposed on future revenue Fusari is obligated to pay her under the verdict. Although the jury found a breach of contract by Fusari, that alone is not sufficient grounds to qualify for imposition of a constructive trust, Linares said.

Starland claimed that Fusari intentionally excluded her from the negotiations when he formed a company with Germanotta and her father, according to court documents. And when that company signed a contract with Interscope Records, Fusari refused Starland’s request for a share of the money he would receive from the deal, the suit claimed.

The verdict was entered after a week-long trial on Starland’s claims for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The verdict follows a settlement in 2010 of a suit filed in a state court in New York by Fusari against Germanotta. That suit sought $30 million, but the settlement terms were confidential. In the Starland case, Germanotta and Fusari jointly moved to seal the terms of the prior settlement, and Linares granted the motion in July 2014.

William Dunnegan of Dunnegan & Scileppi in New York, representing Starland, declined to comment on the ruling. Fusari’s lawyers, Guy Amoresano and William Deni Jr., of Gibbons P.C. in Newark, and Parsippany, N.J., attorney James DeZao, did not return calls seeking comment.

For more on this story go to: http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202717108743/Judge-Wont-Cut-73M-Award-for-Discovering-Lady-Gaga#ixzz3R1Fz7XRs


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