(CN) — A yearslong legal war between Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell’s widow and the band and their business manager over hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid royalties from unreleased songs could be nearing the end, after a magistrate judge recommended finding in favor of the band.
Both sides hopped on a Zoom call Tuesday to respond to the magistrate judge's 2021 report and recommendation to dismiss Vicky Cornell's lawsuits against the members of Soundgarden and their business manager.
In 2019, Vicky Cornell filed a lawsuit in federal court in Florida claiming her late husband's bandmates withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars in song royalties from her and her children to force her to release seven unreleased recordings her husband created. She claims Chris Cornell alone created the recordings and therefore are the property of his estate. The band claims the recordings were made specifically for a new Soundgarden album and therefore are rightfully theirs.
Chris Cornell died by suicide in 2017.
In 2021, Vicky Cornell sued again in Seattle federal court claiming the band tried to buy her out of her stake in the band for an absurdly low sum. She also claims the royalty money her husband’s estate was owed was used to pay for Soundgarden’s legal fees.
Both lawsuits were consolidated.
The magistrate judge recommended a finding that Vicky Cornell hasn't sufficiently shown how any royalties that would have gone to her were misused and that the evidence she did provide — emails between her and the band's business manager and former attorney about money owed to her — were “unpersuasive” since they were “statements from non-partners about their understanding or position regarding potential payments to plaintiffs.”
Vicky Cornell also doesn't adequately show how much money was withheld and transferred to pay for the band’s legal fees, according to the magistrate judge.
On Tuesday, Vicky Cornell’s lawyers argued U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik should reconsider the magistrate judge’s ruling. But Soundgarden’s lawyers argued Lasnik should decide who owns the recordings Chris Cornell made before his death, calling Vicky Cornell's withholding of the recordings “economic coercion” and heartbreaking to the band and their fans.
The band's attorney also noted that that under Florida’s probate law, where Cornell lived at the time of his death, the recordings do not belong to his estate.
Both sides declined comment after the hearing.
Lasnik said he would make a decision by March 17.
“I have to say, I am a big Soundgarden fan,” Lasnik said at the start of the hearing.. “I’m a huge grunge fan."
He added his fandom didn’t go as far back as Mudhoney, one of the early bands in Seattle’s late 1980s grunge music scene, but that he loved other grunge bands like Nirvana and Cornell’s other band, Temple of the Dog.
Lasnik said he thought Soundgarden deserves to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
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