For every problem, there’s a solution. Or as Paul McCartney once sang, “We can work it out.” But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has an addendum: Once the parties work things out, without misrepresentation, there won’t be any do-overs.
Here was the problem:
As Heather Mills finalized her divorce with McCartney, she worked with a public relations specialist named Michele Blanchard. In 2007, Blanchard was told that her client couldn’t afford the $5,000 per month fee.
And here was the solution:
In March 2007, the two agreed to a $3,000 per month fee instead.
But then the rub:
In 2008, the bitter divorce between Mills and McCartney became final. A UK judge awarded £24.3 million to Mills.
Around this time, the relationship between Mills and Blanchard soured. Blanchard sent Mills a final invoice for $168,000, which included $5,000-a-month fees for work between April 2005 and March 2007 and $2,000-a-month fees for the time afterward. In other words, Blanchard wanted her full fee now that Mills could afford it.
When Mills refused to pay, Blanchard’s PR firm filed a lawsuit claiming that Mills had intentionally misrepresented her financial situation and falsely promised to pay upon getting the “big money.”
The dispute went up to 9th Circuit, but a panel of judges there weren’t impressed with Blanchard’s evidence that Mills had lied.
The judges say that Mills’ testimony only establishes that she claimed to be able to find a way to pay her debts regardless of whether she could afford to. The judges looked at things like a $30,000 charity cruise, rental listings in Malibu and Hollywood Hills, and a £2.5 million interim payment Mills received in April 2007 as part of her divorce settlement with McCartney, and one-by-one shot down the evidence as being insufficient. The cruise? The credit card payment was declined. The real estate listings? Sent by Blanchard. The £2.5 million interim payment? Received too late to establish that Mills was being dishonest.
And how about the alleged “big money” promise?
“A promise to do something in the future can give rise to fraud when the promise is made with no intention to perform,” says the ruling. “But Mills’ statement is too vague to support a concrete promise to pay Blanchard $5,000 per month for future work and for work done two years prior. The invoices Blanchard sent Mills beginning in April 2007 stated the ‘total amount due’ each month was $3,000, plus expenses. These invoices negate any inference that the parties intended a retroactive payment for the same periods for more money.”
In short, Blanchard can’t do-over the March 2007 work-around.