Lady Gaga ()
Lady Gaga and her former producer, Rob Fusari, have won a court order that keeps a lid on the terms of a 2010 settlement agreement between them that has become pertinent to another case now headed for trial.
They convinced a federal judge in Newark that the agreement contains personal and financial information about them that will harm them and violate the terms of the 2010 agreement if it is publicly disclosed in the pretrial order of a pending suit, Starland v. Fusari, according to court papers.
U.S. District Judge Jose Linares on July 11 granted a joint motion by Lady Gaga—aka Stefani Germanotta—and Fusari to partially seal the pretrial order and he required that a redacted version of the document be filed by today.
The settlement agreement at issue resolved a lawsuit filed by Fusari in New York state court against Germanotta.
Fusari, who is credited with discovering Lady Gaga and was her producer early in her career, sued his protégé claiming he launched her career, helped her come up with the Lady Gaga moniker, played a key role on her first album, “The Fame,” released in 2008, and was otherwise instrumental to her success.
He sought $30 million in damages on claims of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
The case settled soon after on confidential terms.
Subsequently, in September 2010, Wendy Starland filed her federal lawsuit against Fusari and his company, Rob Fusari Productions, seeking a share of the pie for her own alleged role in Lady Gaga’s career. The complaint, which includes counts for breach of oral contract, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and quantum meruit, was filed in New Jersey because Fusari lived in Parsippany, N.J.
Starland, a singer, songwriter and producer from Hollywood, Calif., claimed in the suit that it was she who found Germanotta, at the behest of Fusari, who collaborated with her on songwriting.
Sometime in 2005, according to the suit, Fusari told Starland that he was searching for a unique female singer under the age of 25, who could be the female equivalent of Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of the band The Strokes.
Fusari promised and Starland agreed that if she could find and introduce him to such a singer, they would work together to develop her and share equally in any resulting revenues earned as a result, according to the suit.
After about eight months of searching, Starland allegedly found Germanotta performing at The Cutting Room in New York City on March 23, 2006.
Starland claims in her suit that she set up the initial meeting between Germanotta and Fusari at his recording studio and, over the course of the ensuing months, met with her regularly to work on her songs, musical style and artistic development, sometimes with Fusari present, sometimes not.
When Fusari entered into an agreement in 2006 with Mermaid Music, owned by Germanotta and her father, to form a company called Team Love Child, he allegedly excluded Starland from the negotiations.
And when Mermaid or Team Love signed a recording deal with a major label, Interscope Records, Fusari allegedly refused Starland’s request for a share of the money he would receive as a result.
Starland asserts Fusari never paid her anything for her efforts regarding Gaga and her complaint specifically refers to the settlement of Fusari’s action against Gaga.
She is seeking an award of half of Fusari’s profits, including future profits, resulting from his relationship with Germanotta or, alternatively, the reasonable value of her services. In addition, she is seeking punitive damages.
Fusari has asserted counterclaims for defamation, slander per se and false light.
He alleges that Starland damaged his reputation in the music industry based on things she said during an interview with Maureen Callahan that were included in Callahan’s book, “The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga.”
Among other comments, Starland purportedly told Callahan that Fusari was angry with her when he was first introduced to Germanotta and said, “Don’t waste my time,” and that, after he saw her perform, he called Starland and said to her, “Are you kidding me?”
Starland also reportedly disputed Fusari’s account of how he came up with the name Lady Gaga, saying it was not derived from the name of a song by the group Queen but “arrived in a far more pedestrian way: a marketing idea.”
Germanotta was not named as a defendant, though at one point Fusari made an unsuccessful attempt to add a third-party indemnification claim against her.
But Gaga has stepped into the litigation again and again in an attempt to shield the contents of her settlement with Fusari.
Her first foray occurred when Starland moved to compel disclosure of the agreement in 2011.
Gaga’s lawyer, Sandra Crawshaw-Sparks of Proskauer Rose in New York, showed up to oppose the motion, telling the court that confidentiality was “the single most important reason” she settled with Fusari and she had negotiated “some very stiff penalties” if it was breached.
Despite that, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hammer granted the motion subject to an “attorney’s eyes only” proviso.
Gaga’s first motion to seal was directed at exhibits to a motion for sanctions that Starland filed against Fusari in 2012. Those exhibits included correspondence between her lawyer and Fusari’s that discussed her deposition testimony and sensitive personal information with no bearing on the sanctions request, as well as Fusari’s deposition testimony about settlement terms and payments.
She filed the motion to seal with a motion to intervene in July 2012. Both were denied for failure to comply with Local Rule 5.3 but a temporary seal stayed in place.
The just-decided motion, filed jointly with Fusari on March 28, contended that the pretrial order contains personal and financial information that the movants have a legitimate interest in keeping out of public view and that Starland joined the request.
They asked the court to seal those parts discussing settlement terms to protect those interests and to keep them from “being divested of a crucial benefit of the [agreement] for which they paid valuable consideration.”
A 65-page redacted pretrial order was filed Tuesday.
Parsippany solo James DeZao, who represents Fusari, called Dickson’s ruling “innocuous” aside from the “celebrity of the parties.” He says the case will likely get a September or October date for trial before Linares.
Crawshaw-Sparks and Starland’s attorney, David Kohane of Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard in Hackensack, N.J., did not return calls.
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