McCartney's Ex Doesn't Owe PR Firm, Court Says
(CN) - Paul McCartney's ex-wife does not owe her former publicist $168,000 on top of what she already paid, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
The federal appeals panel in Pasadena, Calif., backed Heather Mills in a lawsuit filed by Parapluie, a public relations firm run by Michele Elyzabeth Blanchard.
Blanchard claimed she worked for the model turned activist from 2005 until their falling out in July 2008, during which time she helped Mills through her divorce from the famous Beatles member.
According to Parapluie, Mills misrepresented her financial situation by claiming she was unable to afford Blanchard's $5,000 monthly fee. Through her sister, Fiona, Mills arranged to pay just $3,000 a month starting in March 2007.
Blanchard said Mills promised to make up the difference when she got the "big money" from her divorce settlement with McCartney.
When the women parted ways in 2008, Blanchard sent Mills a final invoice for $168,000, which included $5,000 per month for the first two years and the $2,000 difference for the remaining year.
Parapluie sued when Mills refused to pay.
A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled for Mills, and the 9th Circuit affirmed in an unsigned, unpublished opinion issued Friday.
"Parapluie has not produced sufficient evidence to create a triable issue as to whether Mills lied about her ability to pay Blanchard's full fee," the three-judge panel wrote.
It noted that Mills' credit card payment for a $30,000 charity bid on a cruise in March 2007 -- which Parapluie viewed as a sign that Mills could afford the full fee -- had been declined.
"Rather than establishing that Mills was able to afford $5,000 for PR services, the charity bid shows quite the opposite," the court wrote.
It also pointed out that Fiona's request for rental listings in Malibu and Hollywood Hills "does not show that Mills had the money, as opposed to the desire, for the real estate."
"The fact that Blanchard sent along listings for houses that rented for $80,000 a month speaks to what Blanchard believed about Mills' finances, not of Mills' actual ability to afford this," the panel added.
Additionally, Mills' first payment of the $48.6 million divorce settlement came two years after Mills claimed she couldn't afford Blanchard's full fee, the court said.
"Indeed, Mills received the money the same month she began paying Blanchard $3,000 a month, suggesting, if anything, that her earlier statements were true when made, and that she started paying Blanchard when she got the [money]."
The court also rejected Parapluie's claim that Mills' allegedly vague promise to "take care of [Blanchard] when I get the big money" meant that she would retroactively pay the full $5,000 fee.
"The most that a jury could infer is that Blanchard billed, Mills paid the bills, the bills were in fact for the 'total amount due' pursuant to their agreement, and there was vague, nonspecific talk about the future of their commercial relationship after Mills got 'big money,'" the court concluded.
It upheld the lower court's ruling for Mills and refused to let Parapluie amend its complaint.
Mills was awarded less than a fifth of the $250 million she requested in the contentious divorce, but more than the $30 million McCartney proposed. A family court judge in London chided Mills for her "inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid" evidence supporting her request.
Parapluie had portrayed Mills as a liar in its complaint, saying she planted false stories in the media and led Blanchard "to believe that Paul McCartney was a cheap tyrant who was often a drunk and abusive husband."
Mills and McCartney married in June 2002 and were granted a divorce in May 2008.