Island Def Jam must pay more than $131 million for blocking TVT Records from issuing an album of early recordings by rapper Ja Rule, a New York federal court jury ruled Tuesday.
The jury awarded TVT about $23 million in compensatory damages and roughly $108 million in punitive damages. Universal Music Group’s Island Def Jam and its chief executive officer, Lyor Cohen, are jointly responsible for the compensatory damages, according to court records. Island Def Jam must pay $52 million in punitive damages, and Cohen must pay the remaining $56 million, the jury said.
The panel previously ruled that Island Def Jam breached a contract by backing out of an agreement that would have allowed TVT Records, an independent label in New York, to release a record of recordings Ja Rule (Jeffrey Atkins) made as a member of the group Cash Money Clique. The jury deliberated on the amount for two days.
“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” said Island Def Jam lawyer Matthew Dontzin. “We will immediately and vigorously appeal the verdict, and we are confident the verdict will not withstand the scrutiny of an appellate court.”
In 1993, TVT recorded the trio Cash Money Clique with Irv Gotti as producer. After doing several singles a member was arrested; Ja Rule and Gotti moved to Island Def Jam.
TVT claimed a deal had been made in 2001 with Island Def Jam to release those recordings, but IDJ bailed on the project months before its planned November release. Island Def Jam said the two labels never completed their deal.
TVT Records had sought $40 million in compensatory damages and $360 million in punitive damages, Dontzin said.