The complaint, filed March 22 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accuses lead guitarist Mark Kendall, drummer Audie Desbrow, guitarist/keyboardist Michael Lardie and Bigg Time Entertainment of trademark infringement and unfair competition.
The suit seeks to stop Kendall, Desbrow and Lardie from using the Great White name as well as at least $500,000 in damages.
Russell claims in court papers that in August 2010, he underwent emergency surgery for “a life-threatening condition” and it was established that other singers would temporarily fill in for him while he recovered.
The lawsuit allege once Russell was ready to go back to work in December 2011 the band members conspired to keep him out.
“Defendants, who had apparently decided they would prefer that band continue without Plaintiff, stated he wouldn’t be ‘permitted’ to return to his band until he agreed to a lengthy set of conditions (including, for example, that he agree to no longer take the pain medications or even the anti-inflammatory medicines that had been prescribed by his treating physicians) that was clearly designed to keep him from returning to the band.”
Russell also claims that Kendall, Desbrow and Lardie “secretly drafted and filed an application to register a trademark, in their name only, for the name ‘Great White’ and its logo” and “Defendants posted defamatory material about him on their website claiming that he wasn’t healthy enough to perform,” according to the suit.
Russell maintains he has been lead singer and creative director of Great White since it formed in 1978, which under the law gives him the right to use the mark and no one else.
The singer has toured with Jack Russell’s Great White since 2002 as well as with Great White from 2006 to 2010, the lawsuit says.
A statement posted Feb. 21 on Great White’s website gives the other side of the story and denies Russell’s allegations.
“As we all know Jack Russell has been fighting drug and alcohol abuse for many years. He has had numerous stints in and out of treatment facilities and hospitals,” the statement said. “In 2010 Jack’s physical condition deteriorated to the point that he routinely fell on and off stage, forgot lyrics and we had to cancel shows due to his inability to perform.
“In the past two years, Jack has had five major surgeries and has almost died three times. We stood by Jack; we supported his sobriety and eagerly awaited his return.”
The lengthy statement acknowledges that certain conditions were set in order for Russell to perform with Great White, primarily that he remain clean and sober.
“Jack Russell has let down his band and fans. His addictions have ruined his life the past eight years. We will not sit by and enable our brother to abuse alcohol and drugs to kill himself.
“We have lost too many loved ones to this madness. After the passing of our dear friend, the talented Jani Lane, it has become more evident that this has to stop. It must end.”