The dispute centers around a contract for a Millennium concert that took place at the Rio on December 31, 1999. The casino paid Rod the Mod $3 million for that performance. Negotiations resulted in a contract amendment for a second show the following New Year’s Eve in which Stewart would be paid $2 million. However, the singer underwent throat surgery that summer for thyroid cancer and had to cancel.
Stewart attorney Louis “Skip” Miller said Stewart canceled before the casino incurred any advertising costs or other expenses, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“We don’t hold his illness against him,” Rio lawyer Stephen Morris told the jury during opening statements August 23rd. “We only wish to hold him to his contract, which says if he is ill or incapacitated and can’t perform, he will return the $2 million.”
But Miller contends the refund provision applied only to the Millennium concert.
The singer’s argument to reschedule reportedly comes from a clause in the original contract that says: “If any party’s obligations contained in this agreement are rendered impossible … then there shall be no claim for damages by either party to this agreement, and the performance shall be rescheduled to a mutually agreeable time.”
However, Rio said in court documents that the parties agreed to reschedule “only in narrow, specified circumstances not present here.”
Morris cited a contract amendment that says, “In the event that Stewart is ill or incapacitated for any reason, and as a result incapable of performing as determined by Stewart in his absolute discretion, the show(s) will be canceled … and Stewart … shall refund the payment made by the Rio.”
Meanwhile, Stewart’s camp has offered not only to reschedule the canceled show but to play two shows for the price of one.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Last year, Stewart and his booking agency at the time, ICM, lost a lawsuit to promoters who said he backed out of a South American tour but kept the guarantee. Stewart has been ordered to repay the $780,000 advance plus $1.6 million in punitive damages.
“Different time period, different tour, different contract,” Miller said. “It has nothing to do with this.”
That decision is being appealed, the attorney added.