Michael Jackson's longtime dermatologist and friend filed suit Monday accusing another physician with a decades-long relationship with the pop icon of slandering him in a British tabloid report about Jackson's death.
In papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, lawyers for Dr. Arnold Klein alleged that cosmetic surgeon Dr. Steven Hoefflin made statements to the newspaper that he knew were false in an attempt to wreck a rival's reputation and hurt his celebrity-studded Beverly Hills practice.
Hoefflin, a Santa Monica doctor with his own stable of rich and famous patients, and Klein are "competitors in a highly specialized and elite field which caters to a very exclusive clientele," Klein's attorneys claimed in the suit. They wrote that Hoefflin's comments in an Aug. 26 article in the London paper The Sun have caused "extensive damage" to a reputation that Klein has taken a career to build and that includes media-bestowed titles such as "dermatologist to the stars" and "king of collagen."
"Dr. Klein has been shunned and avoided. . . . [He] has suffered shame, mortification and hurt feelings," his lawyers alleged in the suit that seeks unspecified financial damages.
The article in question quoted Hoefflin as linking Klein with Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson's personal physician, and propofol, the anesthetic blamed for the singer's demise. In the wake of Jackson's death, federal agents have sought records about Klein's prescribing practices, but only Murray has been identified as the subject of a manslaughter investigation.
According to the suit, Hoefflin, who treated the singer from 1978 to 2002, told a reporter that in the minutes after Jackson's death "Murray definitely called Klein because Klein taught him how to administer propofol." Hoefflin also told the paper, "Murray would have counted on Klein to be the source of propofol and guide him in its use," according to the suit.
Klein's attorneys wrote that the statements were false. Murray's attorney has said that his client and Klein never had any contact, and according to law enforcement sources, the propofol came from a Las Vegas pharmacy.
In an e-mail, Hoefflin said he was "very surprised" by the suit and said the legal case would give him the ability to question Klein about "investigational evidence the authorities and I possess."