(CN) – Lady Gaga’s producer and ex-beau Rob Fusari will be retried on claims that he never paid the woman who discovered the pop star, a federal judge ruled.
Wendy Starland sued Fusari in 2010, claiming he contracted with her to find someone edgy, bold, and charismatic, for whom the pair would write songs and produce an album.
The performer would be an under-25 female equivalent to the lead singer of The Strokes, Julian Casablancas – someone whom “you can’t take your eyes off of” – the complaint states.
Starland then brought Stefani Germanotta, now known as Lady Gaga, to Fusari, according to the complaint.
Though Fusari said “any revenues that result from that artist project will be split 50/50 between us,” Starland never received her share of the “Strokes Girl” profits, she testified.
At trial last November, Starland presented an email Fusari had sent her regarding their agreement, stating he was “definitely open” to splitting “everything on the label side 50/50.”
Plus, Lady Gaga testified that she understood that Starland and Fusari “had initially agreed upon 50/50” before the star was signed by Fusari, who then “began to change his mind.”
A Newark federal jury ultimately awarded Starland half of $10,816,000 and half of the $590,112 paid to Fusari’s business manager, Sandy Linzer.
Plus, Starland deserved a fixed, onetime $900,000 of the $1.8 million Fusari, or any of his companies, receives in record or merchandising royalties over the next nine years, the jury found.
Half of any future amounts Fusari, or any of his companies, receive from all other entities, including Interscope; Sony; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and the now defunct EMI recording company, would have also landed in Starland’s pocket with the jury’s verdict.
Days after U.S. District Judge Jose Linares granted Starland partial final judgment on earlier this year, the court dismissed all claims against Fusari’s production company.
Once Linares denied Fusari’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, Fusari moved for a new trial and voluntarily petitioned for bankruptcy, triggering an automatic stay.
Linares granted a new trial Sept. 3, finding that Fusari and Gaga’s “personal relationship does not bolster a breach of fiduciary duty claim,” in a redacted opinion unsealed on Sept. 30.
“At trial, it was only clear that plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim was premised on a souring personal relationship which inevitably led to the souring of a work relationship,” the unpublished ruling stated. “This was plaintiff’s theory and she was permitted to offer relevant evidence regarding the personal relationship between Germanotta and defendant to fit her claim without an unfairly prejudicial effect.”
But Linares elsewhere wrote that “it was not until the very end of trial that the pieces of an unfairly prejudicial puzzle fell into place” – when one of Starland’s lawyers, William Dunnegan, gave his summation.
The attorney said “‘Fusari would not deny from the witness stand that he threatened to burn Lady Gaga’s music, if she didn’t do what Fusari asked her to do,'” according to the ruling. “‘That’s the evidence that Fusari had and he breached his fiduciary duty to Starland.'”
But evidence of the soured relationship had “little to no probative value,” Linares ruled.
Regarding certain redacted allegations, the court held that “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.”
Guy Amoresano, one of Fusari’s lawyers, declined to comment on the ruling.
The other parties have yet to return a request for comment.
Though Linares announced at a June 30 status conference that William Deni, one Fusari’s attorneys, is planning to buy a home from an owner aided by the judge’s wife – a realtor likely to receive a commission on the sale – none of the parties took issue with the matter.
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