Due to conflict of evidence DJ gets a free dance

The First Hall of the Civil Court held in a judgement delivered on 20 December 2013 in the names of Patricia Briffa –v– Kennedy Kaycee Richards and his wife Concetta Richards, that due to conflicting evidence on whether the defendant had to pay the plaintiff, it had no choice but to turn down the claim.

Patricia Briffa's parents, Joseph and Mary Briffa, had instituted the action against the Richards's ever since Patricia was still a minor. They held that Kennedy Richards had hired their daughter as a dancer in an audio visual production, which music video was set to be released on the international market. He had promised Ms Briffa the sum of Lm3,500, for which she had to participate in the rehearsals and the final production of the music video. The video was in fact released in the international market. However, Richards failed to pay the dancer. Ms Briffa asked the courts to order Mr Richards to pay her Lm3,500.

The Richards' replied that this was not the case, as they never promised any form of compensation for Ms Briffa's dancing in the music video.

Mr Justice Gino Camilleri, who delivered the judgement, examined the facts of the case. Mr Richards is a singer and a disc jockey. Patricia Briffa learned that he was looking for dancers for a music video. Ms Briffa is claiming that Mr Richards had promised her Lm3,500. In her affidavit, she held that she had attended a number of rehearsals and took part in the final version of the video, which was released internationally. She confirmed that on the day of the audition there were other dancers who were dancing voluntarily, but she was not one of them. After the audition, it was then held that the defendant offered her Lm3,500. After the video was released, the DJ's manager had assured her that she would be paid. The video was used for the Malta Music Awards held on 23 October 1998, which was an essential requirement for Mr Richards to participate in. The call for an audition was publicised in the media and the plaintiff was one of the dancers that appeared for the video. She was given the leading role.

The plaintiff's mother testified that she knew that the manager, a certain Frankie, had promised payment, but this was hearsay evidence. Mark Mallia also testified that the defendant told him that he would pay the principle model, Ms Briffa, Lm3,500. On the other hand, Godwin Obi said that the defendant had specified to all the video participants that they were dancing on a voluntary basis, but he could not remember if the plaintiff was present when this was said. 

Mr Justice Camilleri held that the evidence produced is contradictory and quoted from a 1953 judgment R Spiteri -v- M Mifsud that held that when the evidence was in conflict with each other, this meant a lack of evidence and therefore, this goes in favour of who is arguing that there is no evidence. In another judgement A Dalli -v- M Balzan decided by the First Hall of the Civil Court on 31 January 2003, it is the plaintiff that is bound to prove the debt. The plaintiff claims that the defendant mentioned the sum of Lm3,500 for her performance, while the defendant is claiming that he had done the dance voluntarily. Mark Mallia corroborated the plaintiff, while Godwin Obi corroborated the defendant. The two versions are diametrically opposite to one another. In such cases and as held in previous judgement, the claims are turned down. Therefore, the Court had no other option but to uphold the pleas and turn down the claim.

Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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