Etana’s Lawsuit Against VP Records Partially Struck Down By Judge

A judge ruled to dismissed significant portions of Etana's ongoing lawsuit against VP Records

Etana Grammys
Etana at the Grammys

A lawsuit filed by Etana against VP Records and Publishing has suffered another blow as the Southern District Court of New York sided with the defendants and struck several of the claims.

Etana, whose real name is Shauna McKenzie Morris, is suing the companies related to VP Records and Greensleeves Publishing Ltd over breach of contract and unjust enrichment allegations.

The artist filed the lawsuit originally in January 2022, which contained 10 causes of action where she accused them of copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, conversion, fraudulent misrepresentation, tortious interference, breach of fiduciary duty, accounting, imposition of a collective trust, and where she sought remedy from the court in the form of a declaratory judgment, permanent injunction, damages, and/ account of profits.

She accused VP’s executive Vice President, Oliver Chastan, of being a director for a company named GPL which she says she signed an agreement without understanding that VP was connected to the latter. Etana says she did not want to work with VP and that Chastan went to alleged dishonest lengths to distance himself from GPL and make it look independent, causing her to trust the company.

The relationship between her and VP later soured, and she says the company has collected her royalties despite her paying back her advance from the label since 2014 but not remitting the same to her.

In January 2023, US District Judge Gregory H. Woods had dismissed the case partially to allow Etana to refile an amended claim in April. She ended up cutting down her amended claim to contract-based, copyright, fraud, and accounting causes of action.

However, her hopes of having the court on her side were dashed last week after Judge Woods ruled in favor of VP Records and Greensleeves to strike out several of the claims leaving just one.

In a memorandum explaining his decision, Judge Woods wrote that because Etana’s copyright and fraud claims are time-barred and her accounting claim is preempted, so they will be dismissed, according to legal documents obtained by Urban Islandz.

However, the judge said her new contract breach allegations constitute part of a claim rather than a standalone claim, and the court will not dismiss those allegations.

In its reasoning, the court added that it did not view the allegations that the defendants sought to dismiss from Etana’s first cause of action as a separate
‘claim’ that can be independently dismissed.

However, Etana’s causes of action for copyright and fraud and account were outside of the limitation period to bring such actions while the accounting claim is preempted by the Copyright Act.

Etana’s claim had requested that the judge bar the defendants from relying on the statute of limitation to strike out the causes of action. The judge, however, discussed the law and the high threshold to rely on the principle of equitable estoppel, which he concluded she did not meet.

“So Plaintiff has not shown that any defendant here would have reason to believe that she would rely on any misrepresentation made (if, in fact, a misrepresentation was made), and thus has not carried her burden to demonstrate that she
is entitled to the “extraordinary relief” of equitable estoppel,” he wrote.

The 23-page memorandum concluded with the judge denying Etana the opportunity to amend the complaint again, and only the breach of contract matter over her 2007 album deal will advance.