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Fashion House Sues Kendall Jenner for Failing to Appear at a Photoshoot During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On August 2, 2021, the Italian fashion brand Liu Jo filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against model Kendall Jenner for $1.8 million, alleging that Jenner breached the terms of her modeling agreement by failing to reschedule a photoshoot that was postponed due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
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According to the complaint, Jenner agreed to appear in two photoshoots in exchange for $1.8 million in compensation. Jenner participated in the first photoshoot in July 2019 and, by February 2020, had been paid $1.35 million for her services. The second photoshoot was scheduled for March 2020, but due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the parties agreed to postpone the shoot to the Fall of 2020.

Liu Jo alleges that it attempted to reschedule the photoshoot on multiple occasions, but Jenner “repeatedly failed to provide a definitive response to Liu Jo’s proposed dates, and offered no reasonable alternatives.” The suit contends that Jenner did confirm September 28, 2020 for the second photoshoot, only to withdraw the confirmation stating that it was “impossible” for her to travel. However, Liu Jo learned that Jenner would be traveling to Italy during this time for a Versace photoshoot. Liu Jo offered to split the cost of Jenner’s flight to Italy to allow Jenner to perform the second photoshoot in Milan, but Jenner refused. When Jenner ceased corresponding with Liu Jo, Liu Jo terminated the agreement for Jenner’s breach of contract, simultaneously requesting a refund of the $1.35 million previously paid. Two days after receiving Liu Jo’s termination letter, Jenner responded that she was not in breach of the contract, again stating that it was “impossible” for her to travel in the Fall of 2020.

Jenner’s management company, The Society Management, commented that the lawsuit is without merit, noting that Jenner “has continually offered Liu Jo alternative dates and locations to fulfill an agreement that was forced to be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Jenner has willingly offered to complete services honoring her commitments.” Despite these purported efforts, Jenner was unable to travel in time to participate in the photoshoot and Liu Jo was forced to use replacement models and restructure its entire campaign.

Primary Takeaway

Before COVID-19, force majeure and payment provisions for A-list models and other talent were rarely negotiated at length in model agreements, as it was extremely rare that either provision ever came into play. However, in the wake of the pandemic, brands should carefully consider these provisions when engaging models. Companies should structure talent obligations and payment terms in a way that will ensure performance by models if a photoshoot needs to be rescheduled due to a force majeure.

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