WASHINGTON (CN) – Michael Jackson’s former publicist may prove that a law firm tanked her $44 million lawsuit by sitting on evidence she had to unearth from the grave, a federal judge ruled.
Central to the allegations is a deal that the King of Pop inked in May 2006 with his publicist Raymone Bain of Davis, Bain & Associates, who allegedly oversaw “damage control” for Jackson during his 2005 trial on child-molestation charges and brought the singer back from the brink of foreclosure in late 2007.
Bain said her 2006 contract entitled her to a 10 percent finder’s fee if Jackson benefitted from any agreements or engagements made by Bain or her contacts, but she another deal with Jackson in December 2007 that releasing “Jackson from any liability to her in excess of $488, 820.05.”
Two months after Jackson announced a series of comeback concerts called “This Is It” in March 2009, Bain filed suit for her 10 percent. The $44 million complaint in Washington also sought payment for arranging the 25th anniversary edition of Jackson’s best-selling album “Thriller.”
Jackson moved to dismiss the case just seven days before his drug overdose on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.
Bain, then represented by Cahn & Samuels, fought to keep the case going, but it was stayed pending the appointment of an executor for Jackson’s estate.
When the stay was lifted in November 2009, Cahn & Samuels withdrew as Bain’s counsel and she hired the law firm of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson & Sperando.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled for Jackson’s estate in May 2010, and the Gary firm did not move for reconsideration or file an appeal.
Bain returned to court that October, seeking to set aside the judgment based on an April 2008 letter she had purportedly just unearthed,
In the letter Jackson tells Bain that he had no awareness of, and had never signed, the December 2007 release agreement. Bain said she had only discovered the letter in August 2010 when a consultant for Michael Jackson Co. returned it among a box of files taken from her office.
The court said Bain had failed to exercise due diligence in retrieving the letter, however, and denied her request for relief under Rule 60(b)(2).
While her appeal was pending, Bain sued the Gary firm for legal malpractice because it failed to amend her complaint to include details of the letter, failed to “marshal additional facts and evidence,” never told the court about the letter, didn’t keep her apprised of her case and didn’t timely file a motion for reconsideration or an appeal.
Though the firm said Bain cannot prove that the letter would have helped her win the case against Jackson’s estate, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled Monday that it is the defendants who lack “facts to support their assertion.”
The seven-page opinion in Washington points to the D.C. Circuit’s recent opinion affirming dismissal of Bain’s claims against the Jackson estate.
In doing so, the appellate panel had “relied entirely upon the failure of Ms. Bain to inform the court of the letter’s existence.”
“It is therefore not speculation to infer that, assuming the truth of all facts asserted by Ms. Bain, the Gary Firm’s erroneous advice caused the loss of Ms. Bain’s claim,” Lamberth wrote.
The firm also argued that Bain never told them about the letter, and that a partner at Willie Gary never promised to move for reconsideration or appeal as Bain claimed.
Lamberth disagreed, however, that such “fundamental questions of fact” support the firm’s motion to dismiss.
Jackson’s death kept him from his long-sought comeback, but Forbes named him the top-earning dead celebrity in 2013. In addition to profits from Jackson’s music and the Beatles hits that make up his half of the Sony/ATV catalog, Jackson’s estate also sees income from two Cirque du Soleil shows. The singer’s image is put to work as well with his hologram-like image making a splash at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.
The years have been less kind to Bain who pleaded guilty in June 2011 to two counts of failing to file tax returns, and cheating the government out of at least $200,000.
Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted that same year of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in jail.
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