Universal Fire
The 2008 Universal Lot Fire [ pinguino kCC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Judge Dismisses Universal Fire Class Action Lawsuit

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LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — A federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought against Universal Music Group by a coalition of musicians in the wake of a 2008 fire that destroyed a substantial part of an archive of master recordings.

The fire, which was first reported on by the New York Times, ripped through a movie studio backlot in 2008, destroying over 118,000 audio recordings controlled by Universal from labels such as Chess, Decca, MCA, Geffen, Impulse!, Interscope, and A&M.

The collection included material by a wide range of recording artists such as Aretha Franklin, Tupac Shakur, Tom Petty, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Coltrane, as well as unreleased material and public addresses, including a speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

After the news of the extent of the fire became public last year, a group of artists, including Tom Petty, Tupac Shakur, and Steve Earle, filed suit against Universal, alleging the label giant had been negligent in protecting the recordings and had a duty to share income received from any insurance settlement.

However, as the New York Times noted, virtually all of the plaintiffs had subsequently dropped out of the class action, with the exception of Jane Petty, the former wife of the late recording artist Tom Petty, who claimed she received interest in his recordings through a divorce settlement.

In his ruling, judge John A. Kronstadt of the United States District Court in Los Angeles dismissed the case, finding Petty’s claims to be legally insufficient to proceed with the case, but dismissed the case without prejudice, leaving the door open to future litigation.

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