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Judge frees WME from legal dispute with Virgin Fest LA over COVID cancellation

By | Published on Monday 15 March 2021

William Morris Endeavor

A judge in California last week freed talent agency WME from a legal battle with the Virgin Group’s festivals division over a COVID cancellation. Although litigation continues against the touring companies of WME’s clients Lizzo and Ellie Goulding.

VFLA Eventco LLC sued WME and the touring companies of Lizzo and Goulding last year after it was forced to cancel the debut edition of a new Virgin Fest event in LA.

The promoter argued that because the festival was cancelled as a result of COVID restrictions, the artists were obliged to return monies they had been advanced when they were booked to play. However, Lizzo, Goulding and their agents argued that they could keep those payments because they were still “ready, willing and able to perform”, despite the big show being called off.

WME sought to have itself removed from the legal battle on the basis that its agreement with the promoter said that it could not be sued as part of any dispute that was basically between the festival organiser and an artist. And the court last week agreed that that was the case here. Although it also said that VFLA could refile its litigation if it believed it had a claim against the agency not covered by that contractual exclusion.

The judgement stated: “The court agrees with plaintiff that the contract does not protect WME from liability for its own wrongs. It only protects WME from being sued for what is essentially a dispute between the artists and the promoter. But that is essentially what is at issue here”.

WME objected to VFLA being given the option to re-file, arguing that that would just be a waste of everyone’s time and money. But the judge said that, while he understood the defendants’ frustrations, it was nevertheless appropriate to give the festival company “leave to amend” in this scenario.

Meanwhile, VFLA’s lawsuit against the artists’ touring companies was allowed to proceed.

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