Finding there was little controversy in the case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a woman’s lawsuit that claimed a Florida lawyer failed to follow through on a $75,000 deal to land the late mega-musician Prince for a 2012 gig.
Even though the “Purple Rain” never fell, the lawyer—who made what were described as “many false and grandiose promises” about his connections to the star who died in 2016—refused to return the money. Plaintiff Janet Wallace sued the lawyer, Patrick Cousins, for fraud after the performance failed to occur.
Cousins, of West Palm Beach, Florida, responded that he did exactly what he promised to do: Try to arrange the show. The trial judge found there was no controversy and threw out the case.
On Thursday, the Appeals Court agreed, ruling that nothing in the case could lead a “rational trier of fact” to conclude the lawyer defrauded Wallace.
“Janet Wallace may find hollow Prince’s refrain that he ‘never meant to cause … any sorrow’ or ‘pain,’” said the per curiam opinion issued by Chief Judge Ed Carnes and Judges Jill Pryor and R. Lanier Anderson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. But there was no evidence that Cousins’ claim that he was “willing and able to facilitate Prince’s performance” was fraudulent, the judges said.
Cousins said he was “elated” with the ruling Thursday.
“We’re happy, but we don’t know why the lawsuit was filed in the first place,” said Cousins, who is representing himself along with Derek Welch of Anderson & Welch.
“As the lower court ruling brought out, I did exactly what I was hired to do,” he said. “Ms. Wallace took things into her own hands and terminated me, and Prince decided not to do the show.”
Wallace is represented on the appeal by her original attorney, Atlanta solo Antonio Thomas, along with Ted Lackland of Marietta’s Lackland & Associates.
“[The opinion] just came out, so we’re still deciding what to do,” said Thomas.
He noted that related litigation is ongoing in Florida.
Court filings show the case began when Wallace, then a show manager for Bronner Brothers, wanted to book Price for a trade show set for August 2012.
Wallace heard that Cousins had contacts with Prince and arranged a meeting.
Wallace and Cousins signed an agreement specifying that “Cousins is willing and able to facilitate Prince’s performance” for the planned trade show. It also said he was to receive a good faith payment of $75,000 upon signing the agreement.
Wallace wired Cousins $75,000 from her bank account the next day.
Cousins swung into action, emailing a Prince representatives the agreement, which promised payment of $2.5 million apiece for two shows at Phillips arena, or $5 million for one show at the Georgia Dome, depending on Prince’s preference.
Prince’s representative responded that the artist was away, and he would ask about the show when he returned.
There had still been no response three weeks later, so Cousins emailed another representative explaining that the show’s date was approaching and that Bronner Brothers. needed an answer by the next morning or they would have to find someone else.
Cousins was advised that Prince had the offer and was considering it but hadn’t decided. More weeks passed and Wallace finally decided to pull the plug and requested her money back from Cousins, who refused.
That same year, she and Bronner Brothers sued Cousins and his West Palm Beach firm, Cousins Law, in Georgia’s Northern District for claims including fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Cousins responded that he had performed the first part of the contract—contacting Prince and pitching the show—and that after Prince requested more details the plaintiffs had “capriciously and arbitrarily fired Cousins Law.”
Wallace also filed a bar complaint against him in Florida, Cousins said.
Wallace voluntarily dismissed that complaint then refiled it in 2014, making state law claims for breach of contract and fraud.
U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen of the Northern District of Georgia dismissed the breach of contract claims after Wallace “failed to comply with the court’s order that she amend her complaint to allege facts showing that she was a real party in interest” to the contract.
“Cousins moved for summary judgment on Wallace’s fraud claim, contending that there was no genuine dispute about the truthfulness of his statement that he was willing and able to facilitate Prince’s performance at the trade show,” the appellate opinion said.
Cohen agreed, dismissing the case in 2017. He later turned down Cousins’ request for attorney fees, finding no evidence of bad faith on the plaintiffs’ part.
In upholding Cohen, the appellate panel said “Wallace has not carried her burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute about whether Cousins’ statement that he was willing and able to facilitate Prince’s performance at the trade show was false.”
“That Cousins promptly emailed the details of the planned performance to one of Prince’s representatives suggests that he was willing to get the gig going from the get-go,” said the opinion. “And the follow-up communications between Cousins and Prince’s representatives undermine Wallace’s claim that Cousins did not have the ability to do so.”
Wallace’s fraud claim thus could not be supported, it said.
“I’ve been dealing with this for the past seven years,” said Cousins. “This has not been fun because we didn’t do anything wrong.”