UPDATE (7/17): The surviving members of Soundgarden have dropped part of their lawsuit against Vicky Cornell dealing with a 2019 Chris Cornell tribute show. The group alleged Cornell’s widow Vicky of “fraudulent inducement” and claimed that she “did not have the intention of using some or all of the revenue from the Cornell Concert for charitable purposes.”
In legal documents filed Thursday, two causes of action related to their allegations of fraud over the show were dismissed. Dueling lawsuits between Vicky Cornell and the group primarily over ownership of unreleased audio recordings will continue.
The surviving members of Soundgarden have countersued Chris Cornell’s widow Vicky Cornell and the Chris Cornell estate, accusing them of “fraudulent inducement” for allegedly using revenue intended to be raised for charity for “personal purposes for herself and her family,” according to a lawsuit obtained by Rolling Stone.
The countersuit was filed in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, Miami division on Wednesday. In the suit, band members Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd claim that the band entered an “oral agreement” with Vicky Cornell to perform for free during the “I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell” concert on January 16th, 2019 with the intent that funds would benefit The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation. The surviving band members had not played together as Soundgarden since Cornell’s suicide until that benefit concert. The suit alleges the “recipient(s) of the revenue” from 2019 Chris Cornell tribute benefit concert “have not been identified.”
The concert “is believed to have raised many millions of dollars,” the suit claims, but instead of the revenue being used for charitable purposes per their verbal agreement with Vicky Cornell, the suit alleges “fraudulent inducement,” claiming that “Vicky Cornell did not have the intention of using some or all of the revenue from the Cornell Concert for charitable purposes, but rather for personal purposes for herself and her family.” It further claims that she knew her charitable “representation was false, or exhibited recklessness and negligence as to its truth or falsity, for the purpose and intent of inducing Soundgarden into agreeing to perform at the Cornell Concert without compensation.” It claims Soundgarden “suffered damages” and “reputational harm” as a result.
Vicky Cornell’s lawyer, Marty Singer, called the allegations “salacious, scurrilous, and vicious.” “Their transparently desperate counterclaims … do not change the fact that they are the ones who have improperly asserted ownership of vocal recordings that were created solely by Chris and that they are the ones who have unlawfully withheld substantial sums of money from Chris’ widow and children,” he said in a statement.
Singer goes on to allege that the band received $78,000 to perform at the 2019 concert. “As Chris’ former band members are well aware, every single penny of the proceeds generated by the concert were properly allocated and accounted for and their statements are not only false and defamatory but demonstrate the depths to which Chris’ former bandmates are willing to sink to tarnish his legacy,” he added. Reps for Vicky Cornell were not immediately able to provide any evidence that the band received the $78,000 detailed in Singer’s statement.
Beyond the concert revenue concerns, the countersuit also addresses issues with Vicky Cornell’s alleged control over Soundgarden’s social media accounts, which the band claims they have never given her permission to operate and that she has used and identified herself as “Soundgarden.” The suit claims she has “removed fan comments and has herself posted images and comments to publicly-accessible Band Social Media pages. Some of those postings by Vicky Cornell are intended to denigrate the Band and Surviving Band Members.”
The countersuit follows a lawsuit Vicky Cornell filed in 2019 against the surviving Soundgarden bandmates claiming the band is withholding royalties from her over seven unreleased recordings Chris Cornell made before his death in 2017. The suit alleges there was never any explicit agreement that these songs were for Soundgarden, and that Cornell was the exclusive owner of them.
After Chris Cornell’s death, the band claimed to have reached out to Vicky Cornell, who agreed to share the unreleased recordings with Soundgarden for a potential new album under the terms that they used one of Cornell’s “trusted producers” and kept her informed about a possible album marketing strategy. However, her suit claims the band said it was unwilling to commit to the producer, planned to bring in its own producers and musicians and wasn’t willing to go “through any type of approval process,” ostensibly in regards to the marketing strategy.
In the band’s new countersuit, the surviving members also address Vicky Cornell’s previous suit, stating, “The Complaint is an offensive recitation of false allegations and accusations. Soundgarden categorically denies every material contention lobbed by Vicky Cornell, who filed her Complaint — rashly and without good cause — with the true purpose of extorting Soundgarden into conceding rights to which she is not legally entitled, and of coercing Soundgarden to prematurely distribute Soundgarden funds to her.”
It further adds, “This legal action by Vicky Cornell is lamentable, preventable, and spurious.” The band is seeking “compensatory and general damages in an amount to be proven at trial,” along with injunctions and declarations related to copyright and other ownership claims, punitive and exemplary damages, and other relief deemed by the court.
Soundgarden’s Countersuit Against Vicky Cornell