Jill Scott is being sued by her longtime record label, which is accusing the multi-platinum R&B songstress of skipping out halfway through a six-album contract and potentially owing millions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by L.A.-based Hidden Beach Records on Feb. 3, claims that the label and its founder, Steve McKeever, helped launch Scott’s career and nurtured her into a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter but was unceremoniously dumped in October after a 10-plus year relationship.
“Hidden Beach is shocked by her decision not only because Scott has apparently chosen to leave the Hidden Beach family,” the complaint reads, “but also because Scott is contractually required to deliver three more albums to Hidden Beach.”
The complaint alleges causes of action for breach of contract and damages owed under a section of California’s Labor Code sometimes known as the “De Havilland Law.” Named after actress Olivia De Havilland’s successful fight in the ’40s against long-term studio deals, it provides that talent cannot be bound by personal services contracts for longer than seven years.
Hidden Beach isn’t disputing that Scott’s deal violated the seven-year rule but the law carves out a requirement that certain recording artists who wish to terminate their lengthy deals must reimburse their labels in the amount the labels would have received under the terms of the contracts.
Since breaking onto the scene with the double-platinum selling “Who Is Jill Scott?” album in 2000, Scott’s studio albums (and live albums) have generated millions in revenue. So while Hidden Beach’s alleged damages are unspecified in the complaint, under California law they could total several million dollars.
The lawsuit is unusually detailed in its description of the small label’s close relationship with Scott. She clearly was the center of attention for McKeever. The complaint alleges he paid her million-dollar advances when he wasn’t required to, allowed her to keep merchandising revenue, paid $450,000 to fund a concert DVD that Scott later asked not be released, bought her lavish gifts and indulged her desire to slow her recording schedule to pursue an acting career (Scott has appeared in the films “Houndog,” “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” and HBO’s “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”).
“Hidden Beach feels that Jill Scott is an incredibly talented artist,” the company’s lawyer Lawrence Hinkle told us. “No one regrets that this lawsuit had to be filed more than Hidden Beach, but its hands were tied and it had no other option.”
A call to Scott’s attorney Stephen Barnes was not immediately returned.
A representative for Jill Scott e-mailed this statement to Billboard. “The lawsuit filed on February 3, 2010 by Hidden Beach Recordings against Jill Scott has no legal merit and misrepresents the history of Ms. Scott’s relationship with the label. Jill Scott has the legal right to terminate her recording contract with Hidden Beach Recordings under California’s 7-year rule, where she had been a recording artist for more than 10 years. During her time at Hidden Beach Recordings, she released several highly successful albums. At this time, with many creative projects in the works which include music, film and television roles and product development, Ms. Scott looks forward to continuing to further her artistry and building the Jill Scott brand in other creative environments.”