In May of 2008, legendary Chicago recording artist Gene Chandler entered into a written contract with Canterbury Productions, a concert promotion company headed by Henry Farag, concerning Chandler’s performance of his greatest hits at an upcoming “Ultimate Doo Wop” concert at the Chicago Theatre. On May 10th, Chandler performed a 20 minute set, closing with his classic number 1 hit “The Duke of Earl”, and received a rousing ovation from the audience. After his performance, the producer’s brother, Robert Farag, angrily confronted Chandler in the upper wings of the theatre outside of Chandler’s dressing room. The situation escalated and led to a physical altercation in which Farag began throwing punches at Chandler. After Chandler’s son separated the two men, producer Henry Farag ordered a security team to evict Chandler from the theater, preventing him from singing in the ensemble finale of “Goodnight Sweetheart” and attending an after-show “Meet and Greet” reception with concertgoers. Farag then refused to pay Chandler’s $4,000 performance fee.
Mandell Menkes filed a lawsuit on Chandler’s behalf in August of 2008, seeking to recover his performance fee and to prevent Canterbury from continuing to use his name and likeness in promoting its business. Canterbury waited until at least June of 2009 to remove Chandler from its website.
On the breach of contract claim, the defendants contended that Chandler did not fulfill his contractual obligations because he did not participate in the Finale or the Meet and Greet. On the claim for violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, the defendants admitted liability (using Chandler’s name and likeness for a commercial purpose without written permission) but asserted an affirmative defense that a 1 year statute of limitations precluded the claim. The defendants further argued that they had not willfully misappropriated the name and likeness and, therefore, the jury should not award exemplary damages.
Following a three day trial commencing on January 17, 2012, the jury entered a verdict for Chandler on both claims and found that Canterbury willfully misappropriated Chandler’s name and likeness. Accordingly, the jury awarded Chandler the full measure of damages sought for breach of contract, $1,000 in pre-set statutory damages for violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, and $20,000 in punitive damages for willful misappropriation under the Act. Chandler is preparing to submit a post-trial petition for attorneys fees and costs which he may recover as a prevailing party under the Act. Mandell Menkes partner John Fitzpatrick served as lead counsel during the trial.