Two of the six claims that Chris Cornell’s widow Vicky Cornell has filed against the remaining members of Soundgarden have been recommended for dismissal by Michelle Peterson, the Magistrate Judge at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Her report has been sent to the case’s presiding judge Robert S. Lasnik, who is responsible for the final decision on whether to dismiss the claims. Cornell and Soundgarden’s ongoing legal battles began in 2019 when she first sued the group over allegedly withholding royalties and claimed ownership of seven unreleased recordings as well as Chris Cornell’s name and likeness.
That first claim was addressed by Peterson, who states that there isn’t any evidence of withheld royalties. Cornell’s lawsuit was worded to allege that they were withholding “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of royalties from her. Soundgarden claims that the specific funds under dispute are owned by the band’s partnership. They claim that they legally own the funds under Washington state law unless decided otherwise by a vote among the partners. While part of Cornell’s claim alleged that Soundgarden had used these allegedly misappropriated funds to pay for their legal fees, Peterson did not find this to be the case.
Peterson’s other recommendation addresses Cornell’s claim that Soundgarden’s manager Rit Venerus breached his responsibility to look after her best interests. According to Peterson, Venerus never agreed to be her advisor and just acted as an intermediary between Cornell and the band members, guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd.
Soundgarden had never signed an official band agreement, so the band’s partnership is governed by Washington’s laws on general partnerships. Although the other musicians claim that Chris Cornell left the partnership when he passed away in 2017, Peterson didn’t comment on that argument.
The remaining members had offered Vicky Cornell $300,000 for her late husband’s interests in the group but she declined and said that that was a “villainously low figure.” She responded with a new lawsuit and two attempts to buy the band members’ own interests in the group, first for $12 million, then $21 million, which they denied and said were “unsolicited” attempts.
Cornell’s attorney Marty Singer responded to Peterson’s report, “The magistrate’s recommendation was based solely on her subjective and un-adopted opinion that additional facts must be added to our client’s complaint and we intend to amend our client’s complaint to include those facts. Most importantly, the magistrate’s recommendation has zero impact on the significant claims against Soundgarden and its band members, who have sought to trample on Chris Cornell’s rights by unlawfully asserting ownership over his vocal recordings and by depriving his wife and children of millions of dollars that the band members want to keep for themselves.”
Photo credit: Raymond Flotat