All The Times Poison Has Been Sued

Along with acts such as Motley Crue, Warrant, and Skid Row, to name a few, Poison was one of the many bands that enjoyed massive success in the 1980s and early 1990s as part of the so-called “hair metal” scene. With memorable songs such as “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and “Something to Believe In,” vocalist Bret Michaels, guitarist C.C. DeVille, bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rockett became household names for many music fans around the world, and their colorful onstage and offstage antics further solidified their status as glam rock bad boys.

However, life on top of the rock ‘n’ roll world was not always a case of “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” to quote another one of their classic hits. The band, after all, has been taken to court multiple times for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) a public dust-up at a late 1980s after-party and a pair of plagiarism accusations. Let’s take a look at those times Poison ran into legal trouble over a career that has spanned close to four decades.

Publicist sued Poison members for dousing her with beer and water

One will have to go back to the early days of Poison’s peak period for the first time they were sued. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was apparently driven by a feud with another Los Angeles-based rock titan, and the incident in question took place during an October 1987 post-concert party at The Forum in Inglewood, California. 

Speaking to Variety’s Katherine Turman in 2019, publicist Bryn Bridenthal recalled that Dall was “upset” over a Hit Parader article where Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash — whose band Bridenthal had closely worked with — referred to Poison as “posers.” When she tried to pacify Dall by telling him Poison was outselling GNR at that point in their careers, the bassist purportedly reacted by throwing a cup of beer in her face and placing it on her head. Later on, as Bridenthal and a friend were leaving the party, Dall and Michaels allegedly doused her with a tub of melted ice water.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times in November 1987, Bridenthal sued Poison for $1.1 million over the incident, claiming she suffered physical and emotional trauma in the weeks that followed. 

Although both Poison members declined to provide comment, a representative for the band suggested in a statement that their actions represented a “sign of friendship.” Dall and Michaels, however, eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

The band faced other legal challenges in the late '80s

The Bridenthal incident was far from the only one that landed Poison in court during their heyday. Not long after the fracas at The Forum, the band was slapped with a $45.5 million lawsuit by their former management company, Sanctuary Music, for breach of contract, as explained in their biography on Musician Guide. Poison would later counter-sue, accusing the company of mismanagement of funds.

The details of the incidents are scant, but Michaels was also sued in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Tallahassee for his “frequent brawling” around the same time, the article added.

Fortunately for Poison, none of these lawsuits seemed to derail their upward momentum in the late 1980s. That was also the case with another suit from the same era — one where they were accused of doing something so many artists have apparently done in the long history of popular music.

Swedish band Easy Action accused Poison of plagiarism

Although Poison is no Led Zeppelin as far as plagiarism accusations go, they’ve been accused more than once of ripping off another group’s music.

According to Blabbermouth, Swedish glam band Easy Action previously filed a lawsuit against the rock legends, claiming that Poison stole the chorus of their song “We Go Rocking” for the 1987 hit, “I Want Action.”

While mostly unknown outside their home country, Easy Action may be familiar to some as would-be Europe guitarist Kee Marcello’s band before he joined the “Final Countdown” hitmakers.

As recalled by the band’s former singer, Zinny Zan, in an interview with Rock United, Easy Action received an unspecified financial settlement for the alleged plagiarism in 1989. He also noted that DeVille was the only member of Poison who was “cool” about the lawsuit, adding that the axeman had “actually hung out” with them during their legal battle.

C.C. DeVille allegedly stole songs from a little-known Chicago band

On October 19, 2011, Billy McCarthy and James Stonich, both ex-members of Chicago band Kid Rocker, filed a lawsuit in Illinois federal court that accused Poison of knowingly infringing on copyrights for multiple songs.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kid Rocker — no relation to the Detroit musician with a similar name — was once signed to Atlantic Records and got some attention in the nascent hair metal scene in the early 1980s. This was when they wrote the songs Poison purportedly stole during their peak years as rock heavyweights.

As alleged by McCarthy and Stonich, DeVille auditioned for Kid Rocker in 1984 and was lent master recordings of the band’s complete songs. They claimed the tunes were okay for DeVille to use for his other band, Screamin’ Mimis, after Kid Rocker called it quits. However, the guitarist ended up joining Poison, and in 1986, their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, became a smash hit thanks to some of those supposedly plagiarized songs.

The songs that Poison allegedly ripped off from Kid Rocker include “Talk Dirty to Me” and “I Won’t Forget You,” both of which came from the aforementioned debut; “Fallen Angel,” from 1988’s Open Up and Say…Ahh!; and “Ride the Wind,” from 1990’s Flesh and Blood.

Ultimately, a California federal judge ruled in Poison’s favor, declaring on April 8, 2013, that the plaintiffs waited too long before suing the defendants for copyright infringement, per Law360.

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