9th Circuit Tosses $3 Million Verdict Against Rod StewartThu Nov 15, 2007 @ 07:32PM PST
Posted by Matthew Heller
Rocker Rod Stewart calls his management company "Stewart Annoyances" -- and, thanks to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, his cancellation of a December 2000 concert will continue to be an irritation for Harrah's Entertainment.
The gaming giant sued Stewart in 2001 for repayment of the $2 million advance he was paid to perform at its Rio casino in Las Vegas. Stewart testified that he was still recovering from throat surgery at the time of the December 2000 concert, but a jury in 2005 awarded Harrah's the $2 million plus another $1 million in interest and attorney fees.
Now, nearly seven years after the concert, the case is heading back to the trial court. The 9th Circuit reversed the jury verdict Wednesday in an unpublished opinion that is highly technical but basically says U.S. District Judge Larry R. Hicks erred by inviting the jury to decide whether Harrah's had formed a contract with Stewart that provided that he could keep his advance if the concert was canceled.
"[T]he theory of absence of contract formation was not identified or preserved in the pre-trial order," the court explained. "... Given these circumstances, it was error for the district court to submit the contract formation theory sua sponte to the jury -- particularly in the form of a jury verdict form."
Rather than a new trial, Stewart wanted a directed judgment in his favor. The 9th Circuit denied that, leaving the singer with the risk of an even higher award at retrial as the interest meter keeps running.
Stewart was repped by LA litigator Skip Miller of Miller Barondes.