Newly-minted Maison Martin Margiela creative director John Galliano has lost his wrongful termination case against both Christian Dior and his eponymous label, stemming from his firing back in 2011. You may recall that Galliano filed a complaint against the two brands in August 2013 for breach of contract, asking for over $18 million in damages, following his drunken tirade and subsequent ouster from his roles as creative director at the two design houses. Galliano’s key claim: Wrongful termination in connection with his contracts; as you may know, at-will employment is not as heavily recognized in European employment law as it is in the U.S. Hence, the contract dispute.
Galliano’s loss today comes on the heels of a prior victory. The legal team for Christian Dior and John Galliano (the company) argued for dismissal of the case from the Paris Labor court early on, claiming that it should, instead, be heard by a commercial court, as Galliano was not an employee but a subcontractor. To this, Galliano’s lawyer successfully argued that it is inaccurate to portray Galliano as a mere subcontractor, since he was tied to Christian Dior and John Galliano (the latter of which he owns 91% of) by exclusivity clauses.
In addition to claiming breach of contract, Galliano’s counsel asserted that in knowing about the designer’s drug and alcohol addictions, Dior and Galliano’s parent company LVMH had a duty of care to him that they failed to exercise. Galliano testified to this in court, saying: “The two companies were fully aware of my state. I took Valium so I could get through fittings. During these years as creative director of this house, I did not realize that its success, multiplying its sales by four, came at a destructive and exorbitant cost: my physical and mental health. Always more work, always more obligations, always more pressure, a dangerous and pathological spiral, without control.”
As of today, Galliano was not only not granted any of the $18 million in damages he was seeking, he was ordered to pay both Christian Dior and John Galliano a symbolic €1 each. We can only assume that the minimal sum that Galliano has to pay up amounts to some form of nominal damages, a small amount of money awarded in a lawsuit to show that a legal wrong has occurred, but no substantial harm was suffered. Galliano’s claims were rejected by the Paris labour court and there is no word yet on whether he will appeal the ruling. More details on the ruling to come …