Would UK contract law have helped to free Kesha?

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World is reeling from New York court’s ruling — prompting queries about how Britain would handle the case


Music fans are up in arms about the New York Supreme Court’s recent ruling against singer Kesha, with Adele coming out in support of the troubled pop star at yesterday’s Brit Awards — but UK lawyers aren’t so sure the court came to the wrong decision.

The headline-grabbing case was brought to the courtroom by world famous pop star Kesha. Dr Luke — full name Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald — was the executive producer for both of the singer-songwriter’s best selling albums, and the defendant in the controversial claim.

Speculation about the professional nature of their relationship has been bobbing along for years, but came to a head in October 2014 when Kesha started legal proceedings against Dr Luke. She claimed that Dr Luke “induced” her to drop out of school and “pursue a glamorous career in the music industry”, and that for 10 years he has “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused” the singer to the point where she “nearly lost her life.”

Dr Luke vehemently denied the allegations from the get go, and countersued for defamation and breach of contract.

And, on Friday, the court sided with him. New York Supreme Court Justice Kornreich denied Kesha the injunction that she had claimed, and now it is time for both sides to gather more evidence so she can decide whether or not to dismiss the case outright.

Fans are furious about the ruling. Twitter users have been using the hashtag #FreeKesha in support of the pop singer, and a number of high profile women — including not only Adele, but also Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift — have jumped to her defence.

Kornreich’s decision has no doubt riled the public — but would a UK court have subjected Kesha to the same fate?

It’s impossible to say. As all lawyers soon learn, every case turns on its own facts — and in this one, those facts are pretty murky. But what is clear is that under domestic law, employment contracts have an implied term of mutual trust and confidence, which means, essentially, that both the parties have to behave honourably to each other. If the employer breaches this term, the employee can walk out and later bring proceedings for constructive unfair dismissal, as former Chelsea football club doctor Eva Carneiro did.

So could this have helped Kesha? Legal Cheek spoke to Mark Stephens, a top media solicitor at Howard Kennedy, about the case, and he told us:

The problem with contracts is that people want to get out of them in order to make more money. That’s why judges are so reluctant to let people slip out of them.

Another London-based media lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, told us this:

This is a case in which outlandish claims have been made, which, if true, would give grounds for termination of the contract between Kesha and her producer, whether in a UK or US court — not because it’s an employment contract, as such, but because, analogously, American contract law presumes an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

He continued:

The facts are unclear but it seems, at this stage, that the New York court isn’t persuaded by the claims. As such, the contract remains intact. A UK court would likely come to the same conclusion.

That being said, both agreed that it’s not really in anyone’s best interests to allow the contract to continue.

Will Kesha’s next albums be any good if she’s essentially being forced to record them? Not so, according to Stephens:

Ultimately, the contract is one for personal services. Pushing on with it doesn’t do anyone any favours. Often the best thing to do in situations like this is to negotiate a release on proper commercial terms.


Jurisdictional Top Trumps.




“from the get go?”
Stop it! This isn’t the Daily Mail.



Yes, the even the Daily Mail has higher journalistic standards than LC



“Yes, the even the”



Am I missing something? It was an injunction application, not a final hearing. The allegations haven’t been determined yet. Why should the court proceed on the assumption that she’ll win?



Bingo. That is what people fail to understand. Giving an injunction is effectively determining the outcome of the full trial, without hearing evidence.



The Court is proceeding on the basis that the Status Quo is to be preserved till final ruling.


The Baron Knights

Status Quo? Are they caught up in this as well?



I just want to point out for anyone who isn’t aware that New York’s “Supreme Court” is a first instance trial court.


Boh Dear

Don’t know why employment contracts have been mentioned in the analysis here… pretty sure Kesha isn’t an employee.


Lethargic Bystander

What is this UK law thing you talk about?



I am soooooooooo reeling from the get go for poor Kesha – OMG!



If she were she could just resign and that’d be the end of it.



She can presumably repudiate her contract and face the prospect of paying him damages either in settlement or after litigation.



UK law is in this case superseded by EU law so perhaps the question should be would EU law help in this case?

Also when Britian leaves the UK a lot of laws will have to be changed because they originated in the EU and not the UK and will therefore be unlawful



Go away, Nigel.


Brexit is common sense

No, you go away Mao.



Pretty sure Britain is not leaving the UK.



Twitter users are legally-uneducated twats spouting nonsense stemming from their emotions and feels, non-shocka


Charlotte Proudperson

Disgusting! Free Kesha! Down with the patriarchy!



But Kesha’s music is misogynistic and catered for males!

*Charlotte’s brain explodes*



Early trial?



she is obligated under contract and she cant do anything. I work in the city and know! Anyone wants to argue about it just remember that I have a 1st class degree also.


2:1, scholarship, pupillage, tenancy

I suspect that you do not really exist.

I’d put money on you not really being a chancery pupil with a first, but a bitter and twisted wretch who didn’t achieve and hates achievers.

Most people with a 1st don’t tend to flaunt it randomly.


The Baron Knights

No shit Sherlock! CP is even leaving you little easter eggs that her post is tongue in [legal] cheek.



Do you have an injured rabbit also?



English law…



England and Wales



Welsh law = it’s legal as long as the sheep is over 16 and consenting.



I think the whole point is there’s no distinction between English and Welsh law.



Oh there is. It’s an offence in England whether the sheep is consenting or not!


David Cameron

EUROPEAN LAW ROCKS, wait until you leave the EU, then the laws for the common man will become invalid, guilty verdicts will be found to be unlawful and all of the big power brokers will leave you, you will become a wasteland of empty building as big law firms relocate to a real European hub, one that speaks English and has the euro.

Once again you will stand alone in splendid isolation



One that speaks English and has the Euro? You mean Ireland?



The Euro may not last much longer


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