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Kesha suffers further set back in Dr Luke litigation

By | Published on Thursday 7 April 2016


Kesha has suffered more setbacks in her ongoing legal battle with producer Dr Luke. A New York judge has dismissed most elements of the singer’s litigation as filed in that state, with jurisdiction, statutes of limitation and legal definitions at the heart of the ruling.

As much previously reported, Kesha Sebert accuses her long-time musical collaborator Lukasz Gottwald of plying her with drugs and alcohol and raping her as a teenager. He denies all of those allegations, and has sued both the singer and her mother for defamation, saying that the accusations were invented in a bid to force his hand in a contractual dispute.

It’s a complicated legal battle because there are multiple strands to it, including the fight over contracts, the allegations of sexual assault, the defamation claims, and the element that has got most coverage of late: Sebert’s attempt to put her contracts with Gottwald and his Sony-owned label on hold while all the other strands go through the motions.

Further complications are added because three states are involved, Kesha having links to the three big cities of the American music industry, Nashville, LA and New York. She lives in LA and Nashville, and records her music mainly in LA, but the contracts with Gottwald are mainly under the jurisdiction of the New York courts. Nevertheless, to date, litigation has been filed in all three states as part of this dispute.

Meanwhile there has been a suit, a countersuit, and a counter-countersuit in New York alone, in addition to the separate lawsuit and subsequent appeal on the injunction that would allow Kesha to release records with a non-Sony label. In this latest ruling, judge Shirley Kornreich attempts a story so far of the whole case, which you can read in the judgement here. Though make a big cup of tea before you start reading.

Yesterday’s ruling by no means brings to an end the wider case, and is focused on New York contract law rather than the merits of Sebert’s allegations against Gottwald, but nevertheless it dismissed an assortment of the former’s legal arguments.

Among the matters dismissed were technicalities relating to the contracts between the singer and the producer, and Gottwald’s various companies and business partners, as well as claims of gender discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of civil rights through hate crime.

The fact that the alleged sexual assaults took place outside New York state were in part relevant here, as was the fact that key alleged incidents occurred beyond the statute of limitations, which sets deadlines for when legal action can be taken. And there was also the issue of definitions.

On the hate crime point, the judge concluded that, even if you were to accept that Sebert’s allegations against Gottwald were true, it still wouldn’t constitute a hate crime, because it has not been demonstrated that the producer’s actions were motivated by a hatred of women in general. Wrote the judge: “There are no facts to support Gottwald’s animus toward women. Gottwald is alleged to have made offensive remarks about Kesha’s weight, appearance, and talent, not about women in general”. And as for the allegations of sexual assault, “every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime”.

Definitions were also key in the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, with the judge writing that the singer’s “claims of insults about her value as an artist, her looks, and her weight are insufficient to constitute ‘extreme, outrageous conduct intolerable in civil society'”, which is the legal definition of emotional abuse in New York state.

So, not a good judgement for the singer. But, as we said, the wider dispute between Sebert and Gottwald is not yet at an end, plus there is a whole separate lawsuit back in California that was put on hold pending the New York litigation.