Plaintiff in Ed Sheeran Copyright Infringement Trial Collapses in the Courtroom

Plaintiff in Ed Sheeran copyright case
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Plaintiff in Ed Sheeran copyright case
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Photo Credit: Kathi Rud / CC by 2.0

As Ed Sheeran’s high-stakes copyright infringement trial continues, the plaintiff collapses suddenly in the courtroom.

The copyright infringement case in which Ed Sheeran is being sued for allegedly using portions of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” for his track “Thinking Out Loud” experienced an unexpected delay on Wednesday when the plaintiff, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, collapsed in the courtroom. 

According to CNN, Townsend Griffin fainted about two minutes into Sheeran’s team’s cross-examination of a musicologist, Alexander Stewart, who testified there was substantial similarity between the two songs. 

Townsend Griffin is said to have closed her eyes before her legs buckled, leading members of both Sheeran’s and her own legal team to come to her aid until she could receive medical attention. After shouts to call 911, Townsend Griffin was removed from the court on a stretcher—the incident delayed proceedings altogether by approximately 15 minutes.

Townsend Griffin is the daughter of “Let’s Get It On” co-writer Ed Griffin and is one of three plaintiffs in the case, along with Helen McDonald and the estate of Ed Griffin’s ex-wife, Cherrigale Townsend. Ed Griffin died in 2003, while Marvin Gaye was killed tragically in 1984.

At the end of court proceedings, Judge Louis Stanton inquired about Townsend Griffin and was informed she was taken to the hospital. No additional updates have surfaced about her condition, but a lawyer for Townsend Griffin said she has a “pre-existing medical condition that she’s dealing with.”

During the proceedings, musicologist Alexander Stewart testified that Sheeran’s and Gaye’s songs “have the same harmonic rhythm” and, in his view, sound “very, very similar,” outlining similarities in verse, chorus, and interlude. Stewart played a “bizarre” computer-generated rendition of “Let’s Get It On” during his testimony, which Townsend Griffin said during an earlier break in the proceedings would have had her dad “laughing” if he heard it.

On Tuesday, Ed Sheeran took the stand, testifying that he’d have to be an “idiot” to rip off Gaye’s song and perform it in front of thousands of fans. He responded to Townsend Griffin’s attorney playing a video of Sheeran performing a mashup of the two tracks at a concert:

“I mash up songs at lots of gigs. Many songs have similar chords. You can go from ‘Let It Be’ to ‘No Woman No Cry’ and switch back,” Sheeran testified. “And quite frankly, if I’d done what you’re accusing me of doing, I’d be quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that.”

Stewart’s testimony maintains that both songs repeat the same four chords throughout. But other music experts have said that only three of the four chords are identical. They insist these chords are used in countless pop songs throughout history, underlining their use in pieces with very different lyrics and melodies.