Cases & Deals

Estate of Michael Jackson prevails on appeal in D.C. Circuit case relating to evidence that plaintiff claimed was “newly discovered”

Client(s) Jackson, Michael J. Estate of

On behalf of the Estate of Michael Joseph Jackson and MJJ Productions, Inc., Jones Day successfully argued on appeal that plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable diligence in seeking out a letter that she claimed was “newly discovered evidence.”

Michael Jackson’s former public relations representative alleged she was entitled to a 10% share ($200M) of the Estate's proceeds from the "This Is It" documentary and related increase in sales of Mr. Jackson's albums after his untimely death. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Michael Joseph Jackson and MJJ Productions, Inc. (collectively, the “Jackson Parties”). The plaintiff then sought to upset that judgment based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(2), which allows for relief based on “newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial.” The district court denied the Rule 60(b)(2) motion, and plaintiff appealed that ruling.

On appeal, Jones Day partner Hank Asbill argued that the letter on which the plaintiff’s Rule 60(b)(2) motion was based was not “newly discovered” and that, in any event, the plaintiff was not “reasonably diligent” in attempting to discover the letter. The D.C. Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s ruling in favor of the Jackson Parties, holding that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the plaintiff “failed to exercise reasonable diligence.” As the D.C. Circuit explained, even if the plaintiff’s faxed copy of the letter was “believed lost, missing, or destroyed, a party exercising reasonable diligence should have sought to obtain the original from the defendants, either by requesting the court’s assistance or directly contacting the defendants.” The plaintiff, however, “offer[ed] no justification for her failure to mention the 2008 letter to the district court, to seek the court’s assistance in locating a copy, or to ask the defendants for any copy in their possession.” The D.C. Circuit therefore affirmed the district court’s ruling and preserved the Jackson Parties’ victory.

Raymone K. Bain, et al. v. Estate of Michael Joseph Jackson and MJJ Productions, Inc., No. 12-7061 (D.C. Cir.)