Updated at 1:48 p.m.
Deceased pop megastar Michael Jackson's former publicist is suing a Florida law firm for legal malpractice, accusing her former attorneys of botching her lawsuit against Jackson's estate for what she claimed were $44 million in unpaid fees.
Raymone Bain, who runs a D.C.-based public relations firm, served as Jackson's publicist beginning in late 2003 and helped run his business affairs through The Michael Jackson Company LLC. In the complaint Bain filed May 3 in District of Columbia Superior Court, she claimed her former lawyers with Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson & Gary in Stuart, Fla., breached their duties to her at various stages of the litigation against Jackson's estate.
Bain is seeking $300 million in damages. She's being represented by Steven Pavsner of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake in Greenbelt, Md.
Bain "was instrumental in Mr. Jackson's life and had some contacts in place with him that entitled her to compensation," Pavsner said. "Because of the way this case was handled at the trial level, she has not obtained the relief she deserves."
Willie Gary, name partner of the Gary firm and an individual defendant in the case, could not immediately be reached for comment.
As Jackson's publicist and through The Michael Jackson Company, Bain helped manage multi-million dollar transactions and coordinated public relations for the scandal-plagued artist, according to the complaint. Bain sued Jackson in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in May 2009 (Jackson’s estate was substituted after he died in June 2009) seeking unpaid fees to the tune of at least $44 million.
Jackson's estate claimed Bain signed a release with Jackson that settled claims to fees. Bain countered that she was defrauded into signing the document and had received a letter from Jackson saying he never signed it. She maintained that Jackson's signature on the copy of the release produced by his estate was fraudulent.
Bain claimed in her legal malpractice lawsuit that her lawyers made a variety of negligent decisions, from not amending the complaint to reflect changed circumstances after Jackson died to failing to alert the court to the possible existence of the letter from Jackson that Bain believed would refute the defendants' arguments. According to Bain, the letter surfaced only after a judgment was entered against her.
In May 2010, now-retired U.S. District Judge James Robertson granted summary judgment to Jackson's estate. Bain claimed Gary's firm failed to move for reconsideration or file an appeal before the deadline expired. Bain moved to set aside the judgment, a request U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth denied last June. Bain appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Her appeal is still pending, but Pavsner said they filed the legal malpractice lawsuit now to make sure they didn’t run afoul of Washington's three-year statute of limitations. "We're hoping that with the significant contributions that Raymone made in Mr. Jackson's life, through this avenue, if not through the court of appeals, we'll finally be able to get justice for her," he said.
The case is before Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz. An initial scheduling conference is scheduled for August 16.