Shapiro Arato Bach Wins Summary Judgment for Lizzo in Breach of Contract Case
On August 31, 2022, Shapiro Arato Bach obtained summary judgment on behalf of Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc. (the touring company for the recording artist Lizzo) in a breach of contract action brought by VFLA Evento, LLC in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lawsuit concerned whether Lizzo and other artists who were scheduled to perform at the music festival “Virgin Fest Los Angeles” were entitled to keep their performance fees under the terms of their contracts with VFLA—the festival organizer—following VFLA’s cancellation of the festival in May 2020. Lizzo had been scheduled to headline the first night of the festival.
In July 2020, VFLA sued Big Grrrl and the touring companies for the artists Kali Uchis and Ellie Goulding, as well as the artists’ agent, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME), claiming that the artists were required to return the fees they had been paid to perform at the festival. VFLA alleged that because the festival had purportedly been cancelled because of governmental restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the artists were obligated to return their fees pursuant to the force majeure provision included in their performance agreements with VFLA. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment asserting competing interpretations of the force majeure language.
Judge Mark Epstein granted summary judgment to Big Grrrl on each of VFLA’s causes of action. Accepting Shapiro Arato’s arguments, the Court held that Big Grrrl was entitled to retain its fee pursuant to the terms of the contract because Lizzo would have been “ready, willing, and able” to perform at the festival if the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred. The Court rejected VFLA’s argument that to retain the fee, Big Grrrl was required to prove that Lizzo would have performed in the face of the pandemic and attendant government restrictions, holding that Shapiro Arato had posited “the better and stronger interpretation” of the force majeure provision. The Court also granted summary judgment to WME and the other artists on all causes of action.
The Motion for Summary Judgment and Reply papers can be found here and here.
The decision can be found here.
The Shapiro Arato team representing Big Grrrl included Cynthia S. Arato, Julian S. Brod, and Avery Medjuck.