Kanye West Fights Class Cert. after Tidal Tweet

Robins Kaplan LLP

Kanye West is trying to dodge class certification for a group of devout fans who claim he duped them into subscribing to music streaming service, Tidal. The story started in February 2016 when West tweeted that his studio album, “The Life of Pablo” would only ever be available on Tidal, as opposed to other streaming services like Spotify.  Yet six weeks after the album was released, it was available on other platforms. The plaintiff, Justin Baker-Rhett, along with other fans, alleged they were influenced by West’s tweet to subscribe to Tidal so they could stream the album. According to the lawsuit, West’s tweet had a “profound impact on Tidal’s business” –tripling its consumer base from 1 million to 3 million subscribers in just over a month. Plaintiff signed up for a free, 30-day trial of the Tidal music streaming service and was later charged $9.99 for his next month’s subscription.  He claims he was fraudulently induced into dishing out $9.99.

In June, the Hon. Gregory H. Woods, dismissed plaintiff’s New York State consumer law claim and a claim that the streaming service falsely concealed plans about the album’s limited exclusivity from fans, but held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that West’s tweet was misleading.

Baker-Rhett is now trying to join others into his action, arguing for class certification. On October 3, West opposed plaintiff’s motion for class certification arguing that it is unclear whether listeners relied on or even saw his tweet before subscribing to Tidal.  West also highlights the “complex, individualized issues that necessarily will predominate and render class certification improper.”  A class action is a procedural device that permits a plaintiff to litigate a case on behalf of a larger group or a “class.” To certify a class, a plaintiff must demonstrate compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 23.  Rule 23 sets forth four threshold requirements for class certification including, (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of class members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the class representatives are typical of those of the class; and (4) the class representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. According to West’s lawyers, plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden, because, among other things, “there is no basis in the record here to assume that all or even most of the proposed class members viewed or were otherwise made aware of the single Tweet before subscribing to Tidal.” Moreover, class certification would be inappropriate because “class members’ damages must be calculated through an individualized analysis.”

The case is Justin Baker-Rhett v. S. Carter Enterprises, LLC et al., 1:16-cv-05801 pending in the Southern District of New York.


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