Is the finger of INXS guitarist Tim Farris really worth $1.2 million?

20 October 2021 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read
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Would you give up your pinkie for $1.2 million? Eric Madsen of BRG examines the case of INXS guitarist Tim Farris, who lost his finger in a boating accident and is suing for extensive damages.

A valuations expert from consultancy Berkeley Research Group has weighed in on how much, exactly, is the digit of a semi-retired international rock guitarist worth? Last month, Tim Farriss of INXS fame appeared in court in relation to a recreational boating incident in 2015, which led to the loss of the strummer’s finger.

Farris is asking for $1.2 million in damages; the defendants, a boat-hire company out of Sydney, have offered $93,000 in compensation. “Tim was put in an awful position,” argued seasoned barrister Adrian Williams of Wardell Chambers in Sydney, representing Farriss in court.

Is the finger of INXS guitarist Tim Farris really worth $1.2 million?

“What he has lost is more than a finger. He’s lost the ability for his vocation as a performing guitarist. He was not done with that (career) and unsurprisingly, that’s had the effect of depressing him … all for the expense of a small amount of piping and a small amount of machinery,” Williams added.

Eric Madsen, a BRG managing director in the consulting firm’s LA office with two decades worth of litigation and valuations expertise, has taken a close look at the case, concluding that the ruling on Farriss’s suit in the NSW Supreme Court is unlikely to be “Heaven Sent” (the last of any such back-catalogue puns to be included here). The hearing to date revolves around the plaintiff’s contention that INXS would have toured a half a dozen more times.

Yet, while both party’s figures assume a win on liability (despite bickering over such), defence lawyers have pointed to the unlikelihood of INXS again gracing the stage, at least not to the extent of Farriss’s claims. The $1.1 million in losses equates to six speculative tours post-2012, worth around $180,000 net apiece, with three having occurred to this point in time and three more in the future. Cue the Supreme Court hearing arguments about the merits of old-age rockers.

According to reports from previous hearings, all of Dexys Midnight Runners, ABBA, Queen and John Farnham were discussed – the latter which has a significant bearing on certain elements of the case, famed in Australia as he is for an endless series of ‘final ever’ tours. It’s argued by the defence that INXS – or Tim’s band-mate and brother Jon no less – declared during a 2012 performance in Perth that it would probably be the band’s last ever show.

Nothing that has occurred since has suggested otherwise, according to the defence – i.e. the band hadn’t performed live in the intervening period between that gig and the boating accident, or announced any intentions of doing so. But here’s where it gets even murkier, a critical question of possible versus probable as Madsen puts it, with Farriss claiming he had a vision of recruiting a new lead singer of “great notoriety”, in the vein of Adam Lambert and Queen.

Queen provides an interesting case-in-point. While the band has regularly toured following the death of Freddie Mercury, the recent biopic on the front-man has seen a surge in the band’s popularity, with its music shooting to the very top of several streaming charts. ABBA is experiencing a similar renaissance. Had the Port Power, for example, pushed through to the AFL premiership, with their ‘Never Tear Us Apart” theme, could INXS have experienced another kick?

Legal standpoint

But Madsen slightly puts the knife in here, so to speak, an American free from the constraints of Australian rock sacrilege; “Unfortunately for Farriss’s case, INXS has long attempted to find its next star after the 1997 death of famed singer Michael Hutchence. That search included the 2005 reality show Rock Star: INXS, which led to JD Fortune at the mic until he and the band parted ways. INXS had two other lead singers as well” (Jon Stevens and someone called Ciaran Gribbin).

From a legal standpoint, Madsen investigates other reasons for the more than ten-fold gap between the two compensation estimates, as there remains a substantial difference in monetary terms; the defence concedes maybe two INXS tours might have taken place, worth $46,500 – hence the $93,000 offer – while the damages suit calculates each tour to have reaped more than four times that amount. So what gives? Perhaps varying “discount rates”, says Madsen.

“For the three shows that INXS would have performed in the future – beyond 2021 – a discount rate must be applied to calculate Farriss’s lost compensation as a present-value figure that can be paid out as a court-ordered award in today’s dollars,” he says, pointing to the example of the surviving members of the Rolling Stones continuing to tour well into their seventies, suggesting “a discount period for (the 64 year-old) Farriss that could extend to as much as 16 years”.

He concludes, with some terrible puns of his own; “Some silken moment might go on forever. This one probably won’t. To the extent that the plaintiff’s $1.1 million damages estimate (plus medical costs) is based on the narrative that Farriss’s severed finger is the only difference between INXS doing nothing since 2012, versus touring six more times with a star lead singer, Farriss should expect a payout closer to $93,000. And, perhaps, a few bitter tears.”