HTC, Lawyers Sued by Nina Simone's Daughter
(CN) - The daughter of Nina Simone has taken aim at HTC over the use of the legendary jazz singer and pianist's song "Sinnerman," and at a law firm for allegedly mishandling her mother's estate.
Lisa Simone Kelly filed the federal complaint against HTC and advertising agency Deutsch LA in Manhattan on Sept. 27, claiming they neither sought permission nor paid the estate for use of "Sinnerman."
She seeks $1 million in damages.
Her mother was signed to the Mercury Records subsidiary Phillips Record when she recorded the 1965 hit song, which fell under the umbrella of a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the complaint alleges.
Because HTC is a party to contracts with the federation and the Screen Actors Guild governing the commercial use of recordings, it was obliged to negotiate with Simone's estate before using the song, according to the 5-page filing.
Kelly filed a separate lawsuit that same day in Los Angeles Superior Court, naming as defendants her former attorneys Sussan Shore, Blake Rummel and the estate-planning law firm Weinstock, Manion, Reisman, Shore & Neumann.
In her complaint for professional negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, Kelly claims that the law firm failed to investigate whether Simone was domiciled in France when she died there on April 21, 2003, at the age of 70 after a long battle with breast cancer.
Kelly says that it was in her interest that administration of the estate take place in France under the country's hardship laws. Weinstock Manion allegedly wanted Simone's estate probated in California, however, because it would net them more in fees.
"Defendants knew that plaintiff Lisa Simone Kelly was in a vulnerable state after the death of her mother and wanted to close the estate quickly," the complaint states. "The breaches of fiduciary duty by defendants caused the probate proceedings to drag on interminably with acrimonious litigation, arbitration and other disputes; indeed, ten years after Nina Simone's death, the probate proceeding in California is still ongoing."
Kelly also accuses the firm of failing to file the estate's tax returns or properly distribute the its assets, and initiating "a will contest that was unlikely to be resolved in plaintiff Lisa Simone Kelly's favor."
Kelly wants $450,000 in damages.
Dorothy Weber of Shukat Arrow Hafer Weber & Herbsman represents Kelly in New York.
She is represented by David Berry with Nagler & Associates in Los Angeles.
Neither Weinstock Manion, HTC nor Deutsch LA immediately responded to requests for comment.