A federal judge in California has ordered Universal Music Group (UMG) to provide discovery evidence requested by litigating artists. The order is the latest development in a class action lawsuit filed by artists in response to the fire at the Universal Studios backlot in 2008.
In June of this year, Soundgarden, Tom Whalley (who is the trustee of the Afeni Shakur Trust), Jane Petty and Steve Earle sued Universal Music Group because they believe that their master recordings were destroyed in the infamous fire back in 2008. Among other things, the artists sued the company for breach of contract, negligence, reckless conduct and misrepresentation by omission.
The artists have been seeking half of any money UMG receives as proceeds from the settlement for the fire, as well as half of all remaining loss not compensated by the settlement. Toward this end, lawyers representing Soundgarden have been seeking evidence in the discovery process from UMG, which they believe will support their case.
Recently, UMG asked U.S. District Court Judge John Kronstadt if they could delay delivering the discovery evidence requested. They argued that they should not have to provide evidence until the judge ruled whether the court had jurisdiction over the matter, as this could have led to the case’s dismissal.
But the judge denied UMG’s request, indicating that “some of the requested discovery goes to the jurisdictional issue.”
The judge also ruled that providing the evidence requested would not place an undue burden on UMG.
Unsurprisingly, Soundgarden’s attorneys were pleased with the judge’s decision. Ed McPherson, who is one of these attorneys, said, “[A]fter 11 years, UMG is finally being compelled to tell its artists which masters were destroyed and which masters it told its insurance company were destroyed.”
Also not surprisingly, UMG was not so pleased with today’s outcome. A UMG spokesperson called the demand for evidence “desperate and meritless” while continuing to insist that the rule of law was on their side and that they would ultimately prevail in the case.