A California appeals court on Tuesday overturned most of a 2017 jury verdict awarding Quincy Jones $9.4 million (£7.4 million) in royalties and fees from Michael Jackson’s estate.
The award had been made over the use of Jones-produced Jackson hits in the concert film This Is It and two Cirque du Soleil shows.
The state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled the jury misinterpreted a contract that was, in any case, the judge’s job to interpret.
It took away $6.9 million (£5.5 million) that jurors had said MJJ Productions owed Jones for his work on Billie Jean, Thriller, and more of Jackson’s biggest hits.
The appeals court found the jury wrongly granted Jones money from licensing fees, wrongly went beyond the 10% royalty rate Jones was owed for record sales, and incorrectly granted Jones money for remixes of Jackson’s master recordings.
The court kept intact $2.5 million of the award, which Jones said he was owed for the use of his masters in “This Is It” and other fees.
The court also rejected a counter-appeal from the 87-year-old Jones arguing that the trial court should have allowed him to make a claim of financial elder abuse.
“While we disagree with portions of the Court’s decision and are evaluating our options going forward, we are pleased that the Court affirmed the jury’s determination that MJJP failed to pay Quincy Jones more than $2.5 million (£2 million) that it owed him,” Jones’s attorney J. Michael Hennigan said in a statement.
Jones, who was already a music business giant when he produced the classic Jackson albums Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, had sought $30 million (£24 million) from the estate when he filed the lawsuit in 2013.
“Quincy Jones was the last person we thought would try to take advantage of Michael Jackson by filing a lawsuit three years after he died asking for tens of millions of dollars he wasn’t entitled to,” Jackson attorney Howard Weitzman said in a statement.
“We knew the verdict was wrong when we heard it, and the court of appeal has completely vindicated us.”
On the stand during the trial, Jones was asked by Weitzman whether he realised he was essentially suing Jackson himself.
Jones angrily disagreed.
“I’m not suing Michael,” he said. “I’m suing you all.”
The trial centred on the definitions of terms in the two contracts Jackson and Jones signed in 1978 and 1985.
Under the deals, for example, Jones is entitled to a share of net receipts from a “videoshow” of the songs. The Jackson attorneys argued the term was meant to apply to music videos and not feature films like This Is It.
The film was created from rehearsal footage for a comeback tour that Jackson was working toward when he died in 2009 aged 50.