Appellate Court Resurrects Britney Spears Legal Dispute
It’s been several years since Britney Spears’ crazy antics saturated tabloids and entertainment news, but the legal misadventures have yet to cease. In 2012, a man named Sam Lutfi, Britney’s former manager, brought suit against Spears and her parents for breach of contract, libel, and defamation. The libel and defamation claim stemmed from a memoir written in 2008[i] by Britney’s mom, which portrays Lutfi as a master manipulator. The memoir alleges that Lutfi secretly drugged Britney, worked in conjunction with the paparazzi, and cut off many of Britney’s communications. Lutfi argues that Britney’s life was already in shambles, and that he actually required Britney stay drug-free while he acted as her manager. In addition, Lutfi says the Spears owe him money for his performance under the management contract.[ii]
The case went to trial in 2012, and included several weeks of gossip-charged testimony. The judge dismissed Lutfi’s libel and defamation claims due to lack of evidence of actual malice by Spears’ mom. The trial judge also decided that Lutfi failed to prove a binding management agreement, entitling him to 15% of Spears’ monthly earnings.[iii] Lutfi claims he acted as Spears’ manager from 2007 to 2008, and he is now entitled to 15% of Spears’ monthly earnings during that time. Spears reportedly made $800,000 per month during this period.[iv]
Though the trial judge dismissed Lutfi’s claims, the Court of Appeals is now reviving Lutfi’s breach of contract claim – explaining, “No miscarriage of justice results from permitting a jury to hear and resolve conflicts in evidence about the dates or terms of any such contract.”[v] While Lutfi argues that he performed services until January of 2008, and is yet to be compensated, the Spears argue a couple different positions.
First, they argue that the oral agreement is unenforceable based on inconsistencies in the dates and timing of the alleged deal. Lutfi counters that not every term and condition needed to be included in the contract (which he found and printed from the internet). The Appellate Court now says that it is for a jury to decide as to the material terms of the contract. The Spears also argue that Britney was under undue influence, making the contract void. Under this defense, the Spears have to show that Lutfi not only solicited the agreement with Britney, but that he unduly benefited from it. Lutfi obviously argues there is no such benefit, as he is still owed compensation for his services. For now, the contract claim will return to the trial court, along with an additional claim – assault; arising from an alleged incident when Spears’ father punched Lutfi.
Photo by: Jennifer under Creative Commons License.