LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lawyer for Britney Spears' father told jurors Friday that the singer's family went to heroic efforts to save her during a well-chronicled public meltdown that included shaving her head and other bizarre behavior.
Spears' father, Jamie, in particular went to great lengths, attorney Leon Gladstone said during opening statements in the trial of a lawsuit Spears' former manager Sam Lutfi has brought against Spears and her parents.
Gladstone said Spears' life began to spiral out of control after a painful breakup with childhood sweetheart Justin Timberlake.
Jamie Spears worked tirelessly, Gladstone said, to rescue his daughter from drug addiction, mental illness and the hold that Lutfi had on her during that time.
Gladstone told of Jamie Spears' going to the hospital where his daughter was in a psychiatric ward, staying up with her all night and trying to bring her back to normalcy.
"To Jamie, this is a battle for life or death, and Britney is at her most vulnerable," Gladstone said.
He told of another day that Jamie Spears rushed to a hospital, where he found Britney strapped to a gurney, screaming and yelling. "She is completely unhinged. He stays with her, walking the floor. He is scared out of his mind. He's thinking, 'My daughter has lost everything.'"
The attorney said Jamie Spears expected to turn on the TV one day and learn that his daughter had died.
During this period, Gladstone said, Lutfi was of no help. Jamie Spears confronted Lutfi in the kitchen of Britney's house and told him "leave my daughter alone, get out of our lives."
"And at that point Jamie touched Lutfi. For that, Jamie is being sued for battery," Gladstone said. He said Lutfi was not hurt and was out that night with Britney.
Gladstone added that when Jamie Spears went to court and asked for conservatorship of his daughter it was immediately granted and remains in effect.
Jamie Spears and Britney's mother, Lynne, sat in the courtroom listening to the opening statements.
Another lawyer, Joel Boxer, who represents the conservators of the star, described Lutfi as a man who exploited his friendship and trust with her and styled himself as her manager when he knew nothing of the business. Boxer said that during a deposition, Lutfi was asked how he knew about the world of music, and he said, "It's something you learn by osmosis living in LA."
Lutfi never told Spears' lawyers or her business manager that he was in charge of her affairs, never arranged any business deals for her, and now claims he's entitled to 15 percent of her gross income during his tenure as manager, Boxer said.
"He was a destructive voice in her life. Sam Lutfi tried to take advantage of a very vulnerable Britney Spears," Boxer told the jurors. "Whether he gets away with it is a chapter written by you, ladies and gentlemen."
During his opening statement on Thursday, Lutfi's lawyer said his client never took advantage of Spears.
Lutfi himself was trying to help Spears, attorney Joseph Schleimer told jurors, but lost control as her behavior became more troublesome and she was eventually hospitalized and put under a court-ordered conservatorship.
Lutfi is seeking millions of dollars from Spears and her family, claiming a book her mother wrote detailing that time lied about him drugging and isolating the pop superstar. He is also seeking a portion of Spears' profits from her recording career, claiming he was a key player in her 2007 album "Blackout" and had the right to serve as her manager for years.
The case is the culmination of years of acrimony between Lutfi and Spears' family and conservators, who successfully obtained a restraining order against him to keep him from contacting the singer or trying to intervene in her life. The order has expired, but conservatorship attorneys are seeking repayment for more than $93,000 in legal fees — a judgment Lutfi is appealing.
Lutfi sued in February 2009, roughly a year after Spears was hospitalized and placed under the conservatorship to take control of her health and finances. The move by Jamie Spears came after months of erratic behavior by his daughter, including shaving her head, speaking in a British accent, attacking a car with an umbrella and other bizarre incidents. She also lost custody of her two sons with ex-husband Kevin Federline during that time.
Jurors aren't expected to hear from Spears during the trial. She remains under the conservatorship, which is overseen by a judge who has ordered her not to appear for trial or a deposition.
She has since made a remarkable comeback and is a judge on the Fox television show "The X-Factor."