The heirs of Jimi Hendrix’s former bandmates say their legal battle with his estate must be resolved in the UK rather than New York — and they’re accusing the other side of trying to “circumvent” English courts to win a “sympathetic” judge.
The two dueling camps — Hendrix’s estate on one side and the estates of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell on the other — have each filed their own lawsuit on opposite sides of the Atlantic over control of the rights to music created by the trio’s Jimi Hendrix Experience.
In a New York lawsuit, Hendrix’s estate said Redding and Mitchell signed away any rights shortly after the legendary rocker died in 1970. In a British lawsuit, the bandmates’ heirs said those deals were flawed and that they’re owed millions in royalties.
Now, the Redding and Mitchell heirs are demanding that a New York federal judge toss out the American case, filing a motion to dismiss the case on Tuesday (Feb. 22) that called it a “blatant” effort to litigate the dispute in the wrong country.
“Plaintiffs are merely trying to win the race to the courthouse because they apparently believe this court will be more sympathetic to their claim than the English court before which it is now pending,” the Redding and Mitchell heirs wrote. “Such blatant forum shopping is not entitled to any deference.”
Hendrix teamed up with Redding and Mitchell in 1966 to form the Experience. The trio went on to release a number of now-iconic songs before Hendrix’s death, including “All Along The Watchtower,” which spent nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 and peaked at No. 20.
The current fight kicked off in December, when the Redding and Mitchell heirs sent a cease-and-desist claiming to own a stake in Hendrix’s music and threatening to sue. The Hendrix estate and Sony responded with a preemptive lawsuit in January, seeking a ruling from a New York federal court that they owe nothing. The Redding and Mitchell estates then made good on their threat earlier this month, filing their own lawsuit in London’s High Court of Justice.
In their new filing, the Redding and Mitchell heirs argued that the New York federal court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case — or at the very lease that it is too inconvenient to hold the case in that court. They say have “no contacts whatsoever” with New York, and that all the important aspects of the case, including the laws in question, are English.
On that point, the Hendrix estate will likely beg to differ. Hendrix’s probate proceedings after his death took place in New York courts. That included the execution of the release agreements that Redding and Mitchell signed that form the central dispute in the case.
An attorney for the Hendrix estate declined to comment on Wednesday. A formal response is due next month.