A federal judge in Mississippi has dismissed most of a lawsuit in which rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis alleged a daughter had stolen money from him.
U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers ruled April 25 that most claims were barred by a three-year statute of limitations. He left alive only claims by Lewis’ son and current wife that they were defamed by online comments from the daughter’s husband.
The lawsuit is another fracture in the often difficult personal life of the 83-year-old pianist and singer known as “The Killer.” The Louisiana native and survivor from the dawn of rock now lives in Nesbit, Mississippi. Lewis suffered a stroke in February and canceled upcoming performances.
Phoebe Lewis-Loftin hired a woman then named Judith Brown to be Jerry Lee Lewis’ caretaker in 2010. Lewis-Loftin had been managing her father’s career since 2002, depositing all of his earnings into her bank accounts.
Lewis-Loftin is the daughter of Jerry Lee Lewis and a woman now named Myra Williams. Lewis married her in 1957 when she was Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old cousin. The marriage created a worldwide uproar that seriously damaged Lewis’ career. Judith Brown was formerly married to Myra’s brother.
Lewis and Judith Brown became romantically involved. Judith and Lewis began inquiring into Lewis’ finances, generating a threat by Lewis-Loftin’s lawyer to fire her for interfering with the father-daughter business relationship.
Instead, Lewis and Brown changed the locks on Lewis’ ranch and post office box. In March 2012, Lewis married Judith Brown as his seventh wife, and she changed her name to Judith Lewis. By the next day, Lewis had told his daughter that he no longer wanted her to manage his career and revoked her power of attorney.
But he didn’t get around to suing Lewis-Loftin and husband Zeke Loftin until 2017, alleging the daughter owed him “substantial sums of money.” As part of the lawsuit, Lewis, his wife and his son Jerry Lee Lewis III also claimed Zeke Loftin had defamed them in 2016 Facebook posts. One post made an allegation of elder abuse.
Lewis-Loftin and husband Zeke counter-sued, claiming Judith Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis III had interfered in the business relationship between Lewis-Loftin and her father.
Biggers dismissed all the claims over whether Lewis-Loftin mismanaged her father’s business affairs or stole her father’s money and over whether Judith Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis III had interfered in the business relationship, saying all sides were aware of the alleged misdeeds by 2012 at the latest, meaning the deadline to sue was June 2015 at the latest.
The judge also dismissed Jerry Lee Lewis’ defamation claims, saying the singer had admitted the Zeke Loftin’s statements hadn’t hurt his reputation and weren’t aimed at him. However, he said the statements Loftin made are “undoubtedly defamatory” toward Judith Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis II and that their defamation claims against Loftin can proceed.