Hamilton

Judge decimates Harvest Picnic lawsuit in summary judgment

A Hamilton judge has dismissed huge chunks of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit launched against one of Canada’s largest talent agencies and some of its biggest stars by the organizer of Hamilton’s Harvest Picnic Festival.

Jann Arden, talent agency dropped from lawsuit

Jann Arden, her management and The Feldman Agency have all been removed from a lawsuit filed by the organizer of Hamilton's Harvest Picnic festival. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

A Hamilton judge has dismissed huge chunks of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit launched against one of Canada's largest talent agencies and some of its biggest stars by the organizer of Hamilton's Harvest Picnic Festival.

In a summary judgment released today, Justice Alan Whitten highly criticized the lawsuit brought forward by organizer Jean-Paul Gauthier, and suggested he cherry-picked the issues upon which he based his lawsuit, while not paying people the money they were owed.

"Aside from broad allegations and stratospheric figures based on calculations of the ticket sales of the events … the plaintiff has not led any evidence as to actual out of pocket expenses," Whitten wrote in his decision.

A summary judgment occurs when a judge decides that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial in a lawsuit. While some parts of Gauthier's original lawsuit remain intact, the bulk of it has been thrown out.

Gauthier launched his suit with the intention of suing talent agency the Feldman Agency, Jann Arden, country star Johnny Reid, alternative country band Cowboy Junkies, and others, alleging they essentially torpedoed that last iteration of the festival.

In reality, the future of the Harvest Festival is more likely to be affected by the plaintiff launching this suit and not paying the artist completely. What artist would sign on for these problems?- Justice Alan Whitten

Arden dropped out of the festival because of illness, and Gauthier alleged that the other bands violated the radius clauses in their contracts.

A radius clause is an agreement in a band's contract that dictates they not play another show within a certain distance of the venue close to the same date, to maximize crowd size. Arden played a Christmas show in Toronto, while Reid played a song the Canadian Country Music Awards.

In his judgment, Whitten dismissed any claim against Jann Arden, Feldman and Arden's manager.

Claims against Cowboy Junkies, Reid (who is counter-suing Gauthier) and their managers are proceeding on the strict wording of the contracts they signed (largely based on the radius clause issue). Whitten said those claims will likely fall within "simplified procedure," which usually means the possibility of $100,000 in damages or less — a far cry from Gauthier's original $27 million lawsuit.

Country star Johnny Reid is seeking thousands of dollars in damages from the company that organizes Hamilton's The Harvest Picnic. (The Canadian Press)

In his original court filings, Gauthier claimed that if the Harvest Picnic tanked because of these alleged actions, it could damage Hamilton as a community. Whitten didn't buy that argument.

"In reality, the future of the Harvest Festival is more likely to be affected by the plaintiff launching this suit and not paying the artist completely," he wrote. "What artist would sign on for these problems?"

"There is no overwhelming public interest at stake which requires judicial intervention for the public good."

The judge also admonished Gauthier over the fact that Reid is still owed tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid fees after playing last summer's festival. Many other artists have also not been paid.

"You cannot come into court claiming equity if you yourself have not been equitable," he wrote. "You cannot cherry-pick terms out of a contract to serve your interests and ignore others."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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