A French court has ordered a Marseilles concert promoter to pay the equivalent of $34,000 to a man who claims he lost most of his hearing after standing beside a speaker at a 1993 U2 show.
It is the first such case to have been won by a plaintiff.
The man sneaked around a barrier in order to get closer to the speakers, according to the Associated Press. Court appointed doctors testified that the man, lacking the ear plugs that allow security and technicians to work so close to the massive speakers which U2 uses for the mega stadium shows, lost 75 percent of his hearing in his left ear and 49 percent in his right ear, thus making him legally deaf.
A spokesperson for U2 said that the band was scheduled to continue their massive PopMart tour Thursday night in Rome and that they had yet to issue a public comment on the ruling.
Though this was the first time someone has won damages for loss of hearing during a rock concert, loud music has been linked to hearing problems for years. Several major artists have been outspoken about their own bouts with deafness.
Both Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend have been very public about their battles with tinnitus, the irreversible condition which causes hearing loss, after years of playing in front of loud speakers. Who leader and guitarist Townshend has often pointed to the band's infamous 1965 set destroying performance of "My Generation" on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour as the moment he developed tinnitus.
Jeff Beck, for his part, was scheduled to perform "Estranged" with Guns and Roses during their 1993 pay-per-view concert in Paris, but had to drop out when his tinnitus began acting up during rehearsals.
The last well-known lawsuit of this kind, ironically, involved a 44-year-old Arizona judge and light music favorite Barry Manilow. In the suit, the judge claimed that his attendance at a 1993 Manilow concert lead to a permanent ringing in his ears.
The case was settled this year when Manilow donated $5,000 to the American Tinnitus Association. -- Randy Reiss [Fri., Sept. 19, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]