Kiss Sued Over COVID Death of Veteran Guitar Tech
The family of a Kiss roadie who died of COVID on tour in 2021 filed a lawsuit against the band alleging wrongful death.
Fran Stueber, 53, was Paul Stanley’s guitar tech for two decades before being found unresponsive in a Chicago hotel room where he was quarantined for two days. He died in a hospital on Oct. 17.
At the time Stanley said he was “numb” after hearing the news, describing Stueber as a “dear friend, buddy and guitar tech for 20 years,” adding, “Both on and offstage I depended on him for so much. My family loved him as did I. He was so proud of his wife and three boys, as they were of him.”
Was There a Lack of Health Security on Kiss Tour?
Rolling Stone reported soon afterward that some crew members were concerned about the lack of health security on Kiss’ production. One said, “Every day during the shows, we weren’t tested. … Did we super spread this, did we spread this thing from city to city? It’s horrible that Fran passed, and it’s horrible if this is our protocol just for us to tour. Is this going to be the normal, to stick someone in a hotel, and if somebody dies, ‘Oh, well, off to the next guy’?”
Another crew member said, “We’d been frustrated for weeks, and by the time Fran died, I just thought, ‘You have to be fucking kidding me.’”
While protocols were put in place, the report said, they were toward the minimal end of the scale, with the band having decided to drop the idea of having a COVID compliance officer on the road with them a few days before the tour began. “Four different workers on the tour described Stueber as noticeably ill with a cough and breathing troubles in the days leading up to his death, starting around a week before he was quarantined,” Rolling Stone noted. “Workers say tour management was vocal about not wanting to test to avoid the complications of a positive test.”
Kiss and production manager Robert Long disputed those claims. “People [who tested positive for COVID] were sent into mandatory quarantine paid for by the band and denied their efforts to travel while potentially infected,” the band responded. “Medical care was offered at every step of the way.” They added the protocols “met, but most often exceeded, federal, state and local guidelines. But ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk.”
Kiss Crewman ‘Abandoned in Detroit,’ Says Lawsuit
There followed an admission: “We are now aware there were crew members who attempted to conceal signs of illness, and when it was discovered, refused medical attention. ... Furthermore, it has recently been brought to our attention that certain crew members may have provided fake vaccination cards, which, if true, we find morally reprehensible (as well as illegal), putting the entire tour in harm’s way.”
In the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles and seen by Rolling Stone, Stueber’s family accused Kiss, manager Doc McGhee, promoter Live Nation and hotel chain Marriott International of negligence and wrongful death. “As a direct and proximate result of the dangerous condition created by Defendants,” the paperwork read, “Decedent suffered fatal injuries and Plaintiffs suffered damages, including, but not limited to funeral and burial expenses, the permanent deprivation of the love companionship, affection solace, society, comfort, assistance, services and financial contributions, and moral support of Decedent in an amount according to proof at trial.”
Stueber, the family said, was “abandoned in Detroit” and when he began to feel seriously ill, he contacted McGhee, who committed to sending medical personnel to check on him. Instead, another crew member was sent but failed to make contact. Police officers later entered Stueber’s room and found him unresponsive. He’d been alone for two days.
“Upon information and belief, Doc never arranged for a medical professional to examine Decedent, despite promising Decedent he would,” the lawsuit noted along with comments by some of the roadies. “Defendants, and each of them, whether through acts and/or omission to act, breached their duty to Plaintiffs by their negligent production, operation, inspection, supervision, management and control over the End of the Road Tour that ultimately resulted in the death of Decedent.”
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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening