Quincy Jones loses $9.4M royalty to Michael Jackson's estate after appeal reverses trial court ruling
The music producer has been embroiled in a legal tussle with the estate since 2013 and has sought $30 million
Quincy Jones suffered a blow in his legal battle against Michael Jackson's estate, with a court overturning a recent ruling in his favor that saw him granted $9.4 million in royalties. The legendary music producer, who has had a career spanning 60 years in the entertainment industry with a record 80 Grammy nominations, had sought $30 million from the estate when he filed his lawsuit in 2013.
He had argued that he was entitled to more than the standard 10 percent producing fee he earned in his contracts with the estate for work on projects produced after Jackson's accidental drug overdose death in 2009.
This included remixes of his hit songs, as well as licensing for the 'Michael Jackson's This Is It' documentary that chronicled the King of Pop's rehearsals and preparation for the concert series of the same name scheduled to start on July 13, 2009, but was canceled just days before his untimely death.
He was seemingly vindicated when a 2017 trial jury ruled in his favor, only to have the Jackson estate appeal the ruling. Jones subsequently cross-appealed, seeking even more money but was rebuffed this past week by the California Court of Appeal.
The court said that the trial judge in the case had erred by allowing the jury to decide the contract's interpretation when it should have been something the judge should have done themselves. It then erased most of the jury's $9.4 million award to Jones and sent the case back to the trial court to amend the judgment accordingly.
"Interpretation of the Producer Agreements was solely a judicial function, yet the trial court allowed the jury to perform that function and ultimately misinterpret the relevant terms," the appeals court said.
"The (agreements) provided Jones with nothing more than a right to receive payments correlating to a 10% basic royalty rate."
The court did leave in place the $2.6 million awarded to the 87-year-old producer for unpaid license fees from 'This Is It,' plus other fees and interest, but the ruling was nonetheless hailed as a total victory by the Jackson estate.
"Quincy Jones was the last person we thought would try to take advantage of Michael Jackson by filing a lawsuit (four) years after he died asking for tens of millions of dollars he wasn’t entitled to," said estate lawyer Howard Weitzman in a statement.
"We knew the verdict was wrong when we heard it, and the court of appeal has completely vindicated us. From the beginning, this was an attempt to take advantage of Michael knowing he wasn’t here to defend himself."
It was a view shared by John Branca, co-executor of the estate, who said too many people had tried to "mischaracterize" Jackson since his death.
"It’s gratifying that in this case the court in an overwhelmingly favorable and just decision, recognizes that Michael Jackson was both an enormous talent and an extremely fair business executive," he said in a statement.
The lawyers for Jones are yet to respond to the recent ruling.