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Kesha has amended lawsuit against Dr Luke rejected

By | Published on Wednesday 22 March 2017


While Kesha has certainly won the PR war in her legal battle with Dr Luke, in court she has generally been less successful. That run continued yesterday when the judge overseeing the case rejected her amended lawsuit against the producer.

As much previously reported, this complex and multi-layered case centres on claims by Kesha Sebert that she was drugged and raped by producer Dr Luke, real name Lukasz Gottwald. She is seeking to be released from her various contracts with him and his companies, including his Sony Music imprint Kemosabe Records. He, meanwhile, says that the allegations against him have been fabricated and is suing for defamation.

Both sides asked for permission to amend their respective lawsuits last month, after negotiations to reach a settlement collapsed. Sebert’s updated suit re-introduced a previously rejected request to be released from her record deal. However, her new legal team, rather than asking for an injunction, attempted to invoke California’s ‘seven year rule’ in order to get their client out of her contracts with Gottwald.

Many artists have used this bit of employment law – which allows ‘personal services’ contracts entered into in California to be ended after seven years – to try to extract themselves from record deals, with varying success.

The contracts at the heart of this dispute were written under New York law, though Kemosabe Records is based in California, and Sebert and Gottwald’s collaborations were centred there, hence the claim that the courts should also consider the former’s rights under Californian state laws.

However, this argument has now been rejected by the New York court hearing the case. The judge said that if either side had wanted the contracts to defer to Californian employment law, this should have been stated explicitly when the contracts were written.

“The parties’ choice of New York law should be enforced, unless the public policy of another jurisdiction has an overriding concern so strong that it trumps New York’s strong public policy in maintaining and fostering its undisputed status as the pre-eminent commercial and financial nerve centre of the world”, says judge Shirley Kornreich, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She continues: “Turning to the case at bar, the parties to the Gottwald agreements could have provided that they would terminate in seven years. The parties, represented by sophisticated counsel, chose not to put such an explicit provision into the agreements. Thus, their choice of law should be enforced. Moreover, the single 1944 case cited by Kesha that mentions California’s public policy in enacting [the seven year rule] does not demonstrate an overriding public interest that is materially greater than New York’s interest in enforcing the parties’ choice of New York law”.

The judge also rejected a number of other amendments put forward by Sebert’s team. On claims that Gottwald is withholding royalties from her, the judge says that Sebert has “made no showing that it would have been futile to send an appropriate notice or that she was prevented from doing so”. Therefore, the dispute over royalties cannot be included in this ongoing case. Gottwald has made similar claims that Serbert owes him money, which may be similarly rejected.

Meanwhile, on a claim that Gottwald’s deal with Sony Music is about to come to an end, and that if it is not renewed that would leave her without a go-between, thus worsening her situation, Kornreich said: “It is speculative, not justiciable, whether Sony’s contract is ending and whether it will be able to assist after this month”.

Sebert may as yet appeal this ruling.