Wanna be Starting Something? Michael Jackson’s Publicist files Legal Mal. Suit

Despite his untimely death, Michael Jackson continues to generate considerable media attention, tabloid fodder, and litigation.  Most recently, Jackson’s former publicist, Raymone K. Bain, filed a malpractice suit to recover from her former attorneys.  In Bain v. Gary Williams Parenti Watson & Gary PL et al., the King of Pop’s publicist alleges that her attorneys were negligent in a breach of contract suit she filed against Jackson in 2009.  According to the suit, Bain could not recover considerable royalties from Jackson associated with an anniversary edition of “Thriller” due to her attorney’s malpractice. In their opposition, the defendant attorneys have responded: beat it.

In the underlying dispute, Bain sued Jackson and his production company claiming that she was entitled to a 10% fee for deals that she negotiated for Jackson, including the release of a limited edition “Thriller” album. Jackson died in June of 2009 before the suit was resolved.  Almost a year later, Bain’s suit was dismissed by way of summary judgment when a judge found that she had signed a release that precluded her contract claims.

Bain recently filed the instant suit against her attorneys alleging that they failed to properly oppose the Jackson estate’s motion for summary judgment.

This suit may have a short shelf-life.  Bain’s former firm is seeking to toss the suit immediately via a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it fails to state a claim.  The defendant firm claims that the publicist’s suit is grounded only in speculation that she would have prevailed in her underlying suit.

Often, a fundamental element of a malpractice case is to prove that the plaintiff would have recovered in the underlying matter but for the alleged professional negligence. This is known as the “case within a case” scenario. In defense of a legal malpractice claim, the defendant firm may argue that despite its best efforts in the underlying litigation, it did not achieve the desired result for its client. This is a difficult line to toe and is at issue here.