Universal Music Group asks court to dismiss lawsuit over 2008 fire

Artists including Sir Elton John and Aretha Franklin are said to have lost music in the blaze.

Universal Music Group (UMG) has asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit from a group of high-profile musicians over a fire that allegedly destroyed “priceless” recordings.

Bands Soundgarden and Hole, singer-songwriter Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur filed a lawsuit demanding damages in excess of 100 million US dollars, about £78 million, after a 2008 fire at a Universal lot.

The artists say UMG was in breach of contract after not sharing a settlement it reached with insurers over the fire.

Tom Petty
The estate of singer-songwriter Tom Petty joined a class action lawsuit seeking damages from Universal Music Group (PA)

The class action lawsuit, filed in June, also accused the group of not doing enough to prevent the fire as well as concealing the true extent of the blaze.

UMG, which had acknowledged master recordings were destroyed in what it called a “heartbreaking loss”, has now responded to the lawsuit, asking a judge in California to dismiss the case.

Its lawyers say that while UMG “appreciates that artists and music fans are deeply concerned that historically significant assets may have been lost in the fire”, it was under no obligation to share the settlement.

The relevant statutes of limitations are also up on the claims, according to UMG’s legal documents, which were filed in the Central District Of California court.

And UMG questions whether Tom Whalley and Jane Petty – suing on behalf of the Shakur and Petty estates respectively – should be able to sue as they were not in a contract with the company.

According to the New York Times, hundreds of thousands of master recordings and other materials were burned in a warehouse fire in Hollywood in 2008.

Among the hundreds of artists said to have lost music are Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John, Nirvana and Louis Armstrong.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for November 4.

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