Won his appeal: Flo Rida. Photo: John Woudstra
Rap superstar Flo Rida has avoided paying nearly $400,000 in damages to the organisers of a Newcastle music festival he failed to attend.
A judge upheld his claim that Facebook was not an appropriate way to issue a summons for someone to appear in court.
The 32-year-old singer, whose real name is Tramar Dillard, disappointed 11,000 fans at the 2011 Fat As Butter festival when he told organisers minutes after he was due to go on that he would not be performing.
"Flo Rida has slept in and will not be able to make the concert," organisers told the waiting crowd.
The organisers, Mothership Music, sued Dillard and his management, VIP Entertainment and Concepts, in the NSW District Court for breach of contract and damages.
They were unable to serve the chart-topping rapper with a summons to appear in court and other vital court documents. Judge Judith Gibson then ordered that they could be served via email and a posting on his Facebook wall.
This order was made, in part, on the basis that Dillard was reportedly in NSW at the time and therefore under the District Court's jurisdiction.
When Dillard again failed to appear in court, Judge Gibson ordered the rapper to pay Mothership music $380,000 in damages for lost revenue and reputation, plus at least $20,000 in legal costs.
Dillard then challenged the decision in the NSW Court of Appeal.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel upheld the appeal, finding that Facebook and email were not appropriate means of serving an international rapper with a summons to appear in court.
"Personal service on the defendant is the primary means of service under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules," Justice Robert McFarlan said in his reasons for judgment.
"That did not occur in relation to Flo Rida ... Unless the primary judge's order for substituted service [of the summons] was properly made and overcame the apparent lack of jurisdiction to proceed with the action against Flo Rida, the appeal must succeed and the primary judgment for damages set aside.
"The evidence before the primary judge [Judge Gibson] did not in any event constitute a sufficient basis for the making of the substituted service order insofar as that order provided for notice to be given to Flo Rida by means of Facebook.
"The evidence did not establish, other than by mere assertion, that the Facebook page was in fact that of Flo Rida and did not prove that a posting on it was likely to come to his attention in a timely fashion."