FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Flo Rida’s “My House” resounded through a Broward courtroom Wednesday afternoon, then cut off.
The mood was solemn.
“Thank you, no further questions for the witness,” said Matthew DellaBetta, an attorney for the rapper, before returning to his seat beside the Miami rapper.
The music video for the song, which features Flo Rida sipping champagne and Celsius energy drinks, is one of many pieces of evidence in a lawsuit the rapper is pursuing against Celsius Holdings Inc., the Boca Raton-based company behind the fruity energy drink that has become something of a craze in recent years.
Flo Rida took to the witness stand Wednesday to argue that he was shortchanged out of his share of the profits.
“I filed this lawsuit because I did everything as far as doing my part,” he said. “And with all due respect, the parties that be, I trusted them and they did not do their part.”
According to his lawsuit, the rapper, whose real name is Tramar Dillard, was supposed to receive millions of dollars in stocks and royalties after Celsius achieved certain sales goals.
Celsius reached those goals, according to the lawsuit, but Dillard’s company, Strong Arm Productions, never received the bonuses promised in the 2014 endorsement deal.
The defense argues the endorsement deal was no longer in effect in 2019, when their revenues skyrocketed, and the company was no longer associating itself with Flo Rida. Products that capitalized on the “Flo Rida” name were repackaged before the sales increases, and Flo Rida was no longer entitled to the bonuses under the contract, according to the defense.
The rapper sat at the witness stand as his attorneys from the prominent Fort Lauderdale firm of Kelley/Uustal displayed social media pictures of him holding Celsius beverages, and posing next to celebrities like Arnold Schwarznegger and Russell Simmons at Celsius-sponsored concerts and yacht parties.
Dillard’s lawsuit claims that his celebrity paved the way for the drink company’s recent boom.
One of the photos simply depicted Flo Rida in a T-shirt with Celsius branding and the word “PROVEN” written on it. Another of his lawyers, Cristina Pierson, asked him to explain it.
“Everyone agreed I was a proven artist,” Dillard said. “At this point I was proven, anything I touched would basically be successful.”
Celsius’ stock was trading at less than a dollar per share in its early years, his lawsuit claims. Now, a single share sells for over $100.
Dillard also alleged that Gerry David, a former CEO at Celsius, misled him by telling him that sales weren’t doing well, and he took his word for it.
“I trusted him like family,” Dillard said.
Gerry David will testify virtually on Thursday.
During cross-examination, high-powered lawyers with Holland & Knight, representing Celsius, questioned Dillard on the extent of his role in the contract with Celsius and his duties as a brand ambassador.
He admitted that he chose to put the drink in the “My House” music video on his own, not as part of his duties.
The trial is moving quickly, Judge David Haimes said Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses will continue to testify Thursday.
(Staff writer Rafael Olmeda contributed to this report.)