Steven Tyler Lawyer Gets Big Win in Lawsuit Over 'American Idol' Deal (Exclusive)
Alleged to have botched negotiations, LaPolt says she was only protecting her client's interests. The judge says those activities are constitutionally protected.
A judge has dismissed most of the lawsuit against Steven Tyler's attorney, Dina LaPolt, that alleged she botched her client's contract negotiation to return as a judge on American Idol.
The lawsuit was brought in October by Kovac Media Group, Tyler's former management company. LaPolt was alleged to have fallen short in deal negotiations, costing Tyler a $6 million-to-$8 million deal and prompting him to exit Fox's long-running singing show.
After the lawsuit was filed, LaPolt went on the attack against Allen Kovac.
Tyler himself submitted a declaration stating that he was very unhappy with the services and conduct of Kovac. And two members of the band Motley Crue also voiced their displeasure that their manager had sued their attorney.
But the key maneuver by LaPolt to get a judge's decision Friday was taking advantage of California's anti-SLAPP statute, which gives recourse to defendants who are dragged into court on activity arising from activity protected under the First Amendment. In this instance, that meant a right to petition, or her duties as a lawyer.
As the parties tell the story, in summer 2011, heated negotiations were under way for Idol's 11th season. A dispute erupted over how aggressive Tyler's reps should be in deal negotiations: Kovac had the most bullish strategy, and LaPolt's team objected to Kovac's refusal to stop interfering with Idol negotiations. One of Kovac's employees at the time, Eric Sherman, who was the manager for Tyler, refused to go along with Kovac.
Sherman left for rival management firm XIX Entertainment and took Tyler with him. Kovac blamed LaPolt for facilitating the poaching. Kovac subsidiary Tenth Street Entertainment sued Sherman for interfering with Idol negotiations. That suit eventually was settled.
But then, after Kovac filed a new lawsuit against LaPolt, her attorneys told the judge that if the earlier settlement hadn't occurred, "undoubtedly Tyler would have been in actual litigation. LaPolt's communications at that time in June 2011 were undertaken to protect Tyler's interests in this litigation context."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin mostly accepted that position, confirming in a case-management conference Friday that he was going ahead with a tentative ruling that dismisses Kovac's claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of confidence and interference with prospective economic advantage.
What's left, according to LaPolt's attorney, Christine Lepera at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, doesn't have much to do with American Idol negotiations.
The judge allowed to survive a tortious interference claim that deals with money Kovac believes is owed to him from Tyler's touring. The plaintiff alleges that LaPolt has interfered with his contractual right to get the money.
Additionally, the part of the lawsuit dealing with Motley Crue isn't quite over. After filing the lawsuit against LaPolt, Kovac added new claims, asserting that in retaliation for the lawsuit, LaPolt has been “conspiring” to “set up a competing management company” to steal away the band. A judge dismissed the claims on a demurrer but with leave to amend, meaning these claims will be addressed again.
"It's pretty clear that the lawsuit has been gutted," Lepera said in reaction to the ruling.
Both sides will have the ability to appeal the decision.
Skip Miller, Kovac's attorney, wasn't immediately available for comment.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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