We're familiar with stories of litigious rock'n'rollers. Lawsuits between band members are rife, as are disputes with managers over contract details and claims from other musicians about supposed lifted melodies or riffs.
It can be a legal minefield out there for your average pop star and, to make matters worse, they sometimes have to contend with cases being filed by their own fans. Concert audiences often bear knocks and bruises from a rowdy gig as a point of pride, but not always. Serious collateral damage can result in lawsuits, as can trying promotional lipstick, laying purple monogrammed carpet and believing in the undead...
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1. Fan gives Rod Stewart the (ruptured) middle finger
Celtic fan Rod Stewart has long indulged his passion for football by booting balls into the audience during concerts. Alas, on more than one occasion, these missiles have connected with fans in ways which they have claimed have profoundly affected their subsequent enjoyment of life.
In 2012, for example, the Telegraph reported that a Californian man Mostafa Kashe took one in the face for Team Stewart at a show in Las Vegas and suffered a "nasal cavity fracture" for his troubles. Cue a claim for $10,000 for a repair job.
In 1990, as Ultimate Classic Rock remembered recently, Michigan resident Patricia Boughton filed a claim after a ball which Stewart kicked from the stage in Detroit ruptured a tendon in her middle finger and allegedly caused her marriage to collapse. To clarify: her lawsuit stated that with the digit out of commission her lovemaking was greatly diminished, and her marriage fatally affected. Before a judge could ponder the ergonomics of this predicament, the case was settled out of court for $17,000, less than the $75,000 she was was originally seeking with her husband, who had added his own claim of "loss of companionship" to the lawsuit.
2. Rihanna concert becomes a sore point
Waitress Starkeema Greenridge from Harlem could not have known that her visit to a Rihanna concert in 2013 would leave her, according to a subsequent claim, with a bout of oral herpes. The supposed culprit? RiRiWoo lipstick endorsed by Rihanna and sold in a pop up shop at the Brooklyn performance.
In an interview with New York's Daily News, Greenridge said an employee had instructed her to "press her lips together and spread the lipstick around." However, it wasn't "a fresh or new lipstick tube, but rather one that had been used for other patrons". Two days later, Greenridge developed a cold sore on her lip that her doctor diagnosed as herpes. "I wasn't able to work for two weeks. It cost me a lot of money," she said. "This is going to happen over and over again if nothing is done."
The suit was for unspecified damages and claimed the cosmetics company "should have known... it was unsanitary exposing patrons to possible spread of disease".
It's unclear whether the case was ever formally filed.
3. Prince's purple reign at home of sports star
In 2004, Prince secretly rented the West Hollywood mansion of NBA basketball star Carlos Boozer and swiftly set about making himself feel at home. According to the Guardian, "Prince painted the outside of the house in purple stripes, had his personalised hieroglyph painted on the house, as well as the number 3121 [the title of his latest album]. Inside, the singer installed a black carpet in a guest room and new plumbing for 'beauty salon chairs' and the carpet in the master bedroom was replaced with a purple monogrammed carpet."
Boozer gave him a "three-day notice to cure or quit", then filed a lawsuit, which sought damages in excess of $25,000 plus costs.
There seems to have been little rancour: the suit was dropped "without prejudice" after Prince rectified the changes and Boozer signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Boozer later told the Chicago Tribune: "He knows how to live, I'll put it that way... He's a great dude. He's very humble. He has a great spirit about him." He also said that, despite everything, he remained a fan of the Purple Rain film and Prince's music, if not seeing him live: "Great movie. Not a big fan of some of his concerts... Some of his music is pretty hot, though."
4. The Jacko songs a fan claims aren't black and white
Three Michael Jackson songs from his posthumously-released Michael album are at the centre of an ongoing suit between fan Vera Serova and Sony Music Entertainment, Jackson's record company at the time of his death. Serova became convinced in 2014 that these songs did not feature Jackson's voice despite the track listings stating that they did. As Digital Music News reported, the opinion is echoed by Jackson's family but disputed by producers Eddie Cascio and James Porte who are listed as defendants in the case along with with Angelikson Productions LLC and Sony Music.
Serova's class action cites violation of consumer laws, unfair competition and fraud, because she believes she was misled into buying the CD on the basis that Jackson performed vocals on the tracks Breaking News, Monster and Keep Your Head Up.
In July 2016, her suit received a fillip from the judge who rejected an attempt by Sony to rule out consumer protection claims. The case continues…
5. Steve Aoki stage dives, lands in hot water
As his above appearance on Never Mind the Buzzcocks proves, American EDM DJ Steve Aoki is a fan of cake-tossing (and indeed he was threatened with a lawsuit in 2016 by a Las Vegas fan who slipped up on one, as TMZ reported). But it's his lesser-known stage diving which has proved to be more controversial, and expensive.
In 2013, Aoki launched an inflatable raft into the crowd at a concert in San Diego. He then jumped 20 foot into the submersible, knocking fan Brittany Hickman unconscious. Two days later, she discovered that her neck was broken and sued Aoki and the venue, Hard Rock Café, for a reported $10.7m.
Aoki settled out of court with Hickman. The jury then ruled 10-2 in favour of the Hard Rock Café. Speaking to Billboard, a representative of Aoki's said: "Steve would never want anyone to get hurt at one of his shows and is sorry Ms Hickman did. After they reached a confidential settlement, they had the chance to speak, and Steve got the chance to apologise."
6. The suspicious mind of Major Bill Smith
Major Bill Smith was a record producer, publisher and promoter who had some success in the 50s and 60s producing a number of hit singles in the American South. During this period, he claimed to have first become a fan and then a friend of Elvis Presley's, encouraging DJs in Texas to play his records. According to the Major, the friendship continued up to Presley's death in 1977, and well beyond...
In 1993, United Press International reported that Smith "claims to have proof that Elvis Presley is alive [and] has filed a federal lawsuit in Dallas against Elvis Presley Enterprises for saying that The King is dead". Smith had apparently enjoyed numerous phone conversations in the years following his hero's "death", which he believed had been faked so that Elvis could continue life free from the burden of being a star.
The Major's suit, which he allegedly said God had told him to file, claimed Elvis Presley Enterprises were violating his civil rights by holding a monopoly on Elvis memorabilia and interfering with the marketing of a book he'd written about The King. UPI approached Elvis Presley Enterprises, who said they were unaware of the suit. If it did go anywhere, it collapsed quickly, along with what remained of the Major's credibility.