A lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson's former dermatologist--who alleges a plastic surgeon falsely implied in a media interview that the skin specialist had a hand in the singer's death--may be settled in mediation, according to attorneys.
Dr. Arnold Klein sued Dr. Stephen Hoefflin in September 2009 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging slander, trade libel, false light, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and unfair competition.
Both doctors once provided medical services to the late pop star.
Hoefflin's attorneys moved to dismiss the case on free-speech grounds. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue rejected the motion in February 2010, and her ruling was upheld on appeal. Today's (June 22) status conference was the first time the case had been back before Hogue since the appeal.
Klein filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2011, saying he owes creditors $3.5 million. The bankruptcy trustee is now acting as the plaintiff in his case.
Attorney John Reitman, on behalf of the trustee, told Hogue that both sides have agreed to meet with a retired bankruptcy judge to try and resolve the entire case. Hogue scheduled a jury trial for Feb. 25 in case settlement efforts fail.
According to the lawsuit, Hoefflin told reporters for The Sun, a British tabloid, in August 2009 that Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, would have asked Klein to tell him how to administer propofol and would have counted on him to be his source of the anesthetic and to guide him in its use.
Hoefflin's lawyers maintain he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of statements he made.
But in her 2010 ruling, Hogue rejected claims that the suit infringed on Hoefflin's right to free speech. She said Hoefflin knew he could be sued because Klein's attorneys had warned him that statements in an email he sent to a CBS producer in July 2009 also allegedly were false.
In that email, Hoefflin charged that Klein had "ruined (Jackson's) health" and appearance and "helped take his life," according to court papers.
Klein actually did not teach Murray how to give propofol and was not in contact with Murray on June 25, 2009, the day the 50-year-old singer died of what was later determined to be acute propofol intoxication while under Murray's care, Klein's court papers state.
Klein was treating a patient that morning and learned of Jackson's death indirectly through a patient call to his office, according to his court papers.
Hoefflin says his 2002 split with Klein occurred after the dermatologist "advised Michael Jackson not to go into a planned drug rehabilitation program."
Murray, who administered propofol to Jackson at his rented Holmby Hills estate on the morning of his death, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced in November to four years in prison.