Legal Drama

Damon Dash Sues his Lawyer for $5Million Over Failed Distribution Deal with Rapper Curren$y

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It’s been a quick minute since I saw Damon Dash. I think last I saw him was in 2010. Mr. Dash, what’s good? Been a minute. AML people, let’s get to this rather interesting case. Typically, lawyers are the ones who sue their clients over unpaid fees. Yes there are few cases we have seen clients sue lawyers but for the most part, it is not the norm.

In this case, Dash sues his lawyer over a failed distribution deal with Curren$y. Let’s look at a quick excerpt and then talk about some of the legal issues present:

“(AllHipHop News) Rap mogul Damon Dash has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a former attorney, claiming she ruined a high-profile distribution deal with rapper Curren$y.

According to reports, Dame Dash’s company DD172 and BluRoc Records, have filed a lawsuit against Janis Shen last week in Manhattan Federal Court.

The lawsuit claims that Janice Shen failed to complete the contractual paperwork for an oral agreement Dame Dash had with Curren$y, resulting in the loss of the artist altogether, as well as several other upcoming acts. . .”

AML COMMENTARY
There are several issues with this case and I’d be interested in getting my hands on the complaint to see what is alleged in the factual statement leading up to the claims he now sues for. However, since we do not have a copy of the complaint, I am sure my colleagues, like me, have questions as we try to understand this. One big one is the so called oral agreement Dame had with Curren$y. When, where, how? When did the lawyer get notice of this “oral agreement”? If he had a lawyer, shouldn’t he have had his lawyer negotiate and deal directly with  Curren$y’s lawyer? Is the reason the deal did not move forward because whatever he agreed oral with Curren$y changed when his lawyer was ready to do something about what he represented to her?

Folks, when you go to your lawyer for legal representation, the following is what should happen:

1. You consult with your lawyer for representation, typically it is a paid consultation, unless stated otherwise.

2. If the lawyer feels your case makes sense to take, they tell you and ask for a retainer fee. By law, in many states, if the amount is $1,000 or more, you have to have an agreement. The agreement is called a retainer agreement. In cases like these, a retainer fee can run anywhere from $10,000 to $45,000 depending on the work to be done. When the retainer is depleted, you add more money. So, the retainer, your initial deposit, is not what you actually end up paying. You can pay a lot more. Your attorney can bill, in cases like this, anywhere from $350 to $1,000 + per hour, depending on law firm, experience, location etc. In smaller locales, the billable rate can start from $250.00 and above.

3. Now, this is where this case gets interesting. The retainer agreement is where the lawyer outlines what the lawyer will do, upon receipt of payment. MOST retainer agreements say, IF YOU DO NOT PAY THE RETAINER OR MONIES OWED, A LAWYER WILL DO NO WORK. So, the question is, what was agreed upon and what the retainer agreement say? Did they stick to the retainer agreement or did they modify it through their actions?

Either way, a very interesting case. NOW, there is no way you will slap a lawyer with a lawsuit, especially of this magnitude, and expect that the lawyer ( true trial lawyer) will take it lying down. You sock ’em with a blow, don’t be surprised if you get an unexpected uppercut that will leave you tasting your own blood via cross complaints i.e. their own lawsuits also filed against you. I expect the lawyer here to swing harder. I also expect the argument will be that Damon Dash is trying to control a situation he could not. Curren$y let him and arguably, there is no guarantee that Curren$y would have stayed with Dame Dash if the contract was drafted. So, the causal connection i.e. the cause element of a breach of contract claim is lacking.

Witnesses that should be expected include:
Curren$y
Attorney Janice Shen
Relevant folks at Warner
Relevant folks at Island Def/Jam and all named artists in the news story, if relevant.

What the lawyer should be expected to show?

Expect his lawyer to show some of the financial difficulties Damon Dash has had over the years that are publicly known, lawsuits and even argue that this is an attempt to make her a scapegoat rather than face his legal and financial issues.

The heart of the litigation will center around the retainer agreement. By the way folks, in most contracts, there is an “Entire Agreement” clause drafted in them. The clause simply says, “what we sign here is IT. Even if we agree to something else orally, we both gotta put it in writing and have it amend the existing contract. Otherwise, for all intended purposes, the contract we are signing now IS IT!”

I presume this retainer agreement had such a clause.

It is an interesting fight ahead and I am definitely paying attention to this story.

Allhiphop.com has the full story.

-Uduak
@uduaklaw

Photocredit: CNM  News

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AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

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ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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