According to Rolling Stone, the family of KISS's longtime guitar tech Francis Stueber, who died in 2021 after contracting COVID-19 during the band's "End Of The Road" tour, has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death. KISS founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, their longtime manager Doc McGhee, the tour's promoter Live Nation, and hotel chain Marriott International were all named as defendants.
Stueber had worked on all KISS and Stanley solo tours and one-off shows from 2002 until his death in October 2021. He even took the stage with the band during the "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" episode where KISS performed for the troops, and was on hand when Stanley cut his 2006 solo album "Live To Win". Stueber also worked behind the scenes for HEART, THE OFFSPRING and REO SPEEDWAGON's Kevin Cronin.
Francis's widow filed the suit in Los Angeles on Wednesday along with several members of her family, claiming both negligence and wrongful death.
"As a direct and proximate result of the dangerous condition created by Defendants," the suit said, "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's family claims that "the failure to enforce or have adequate Covid-19 policies or procedures caused a Covid-19 outbreak amongst band members and tour personnel."
"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," the suit said.
Days after Stueber's death, KISS pushed back against accusations of lax COVID-19 protocols on the "End Of The Road" U.S. tour. The legendary rockers released a statement defending themselves after a group of their roadies suggested to Rolling Stone magazine that the lack of COVID protocols enforced on the tour led to Stueber's death. Stueber died of coronavirus in his Detroit hotel room on October 17, just two days after being quarantined. He was 53 years old.
"We are profoundly heartbroken at the loss of Francis, he was a friend and colleague of 20 years, there is no way to replace him," KISS said in its statement. "Millions of people have lost someone special to this horrific virus and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Please protect yourself and your loved ones.
"Our 'End Of The Road' world tour absolutely had COVID safety protocols in place that met, but most often exceeded, federal, state, and local guidelines," the band added. "But ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk."
KISS's statement was issued in response to comments made by several crew members in which they detailed the lack of COVID protocols enforced on the tour. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one roadie told Rolling Stone: "I couldn't believe how unsafe it was, and that we were still going. We'd been frustrated for weeks, and by the time Fran died, I just thought, 'You have to be fucking kidding me.'"
The crew members claimed the tour didn't take strict enough safety measures, including not testing everyone regularly. In addition, some crew members allegedly disguised their illness and/or faked vaccine cards.
"Every day during the shows, we weren't tested," one of the roadies said. "And there are so many unknowns. Did we superspread 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?'"
KISS production manager Robert Long confirmed that daily testing was not implemented but insisted that he did not discourage testing.
"I never told anyone we didn't want to test them," Long told Rolling Stone. "If you wanted a test, we'd supply it. If you wanted to get tested, if you felt symptoms, if you think someone might be sick, please raise your hand. We had thermometers on every bus, sheets to write down temperatures every morning, mask boxes, and sanitizers everywhere. People were getting tested every other day, we ordered tests regularly. I'm not going to not test people; I take this shit seriously."
After Stueber died, KISS frontman Paul Stanley took to his Twitter to pay tribute his friend, writing: "My dear friend, buddy and guitar tech for 20 years, Fran Stueber died yesterday suddenly of Covid. 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 3 boys as they were of him. I'm numb."