April 04, 2013
By Kenneth Miller
LAWT Contributing Writer
The jury selection for the trial of giant concert promoter AEG live began this week with Katherine Jackson, the mother of late music icon Michael Jackson and his children seeking $40 billion in damages. Nearing the four-year anniversary of the pop superstar’s death and following the manslaughter conviction of physician Conrad Murray, the latest and perhaps final legal saga will focus on the culpability of AEG in the hiring of Murray as Jackson’s physician. It was Murray’s ill-fated propofol treatment that led to Jackson’s death on June 9, 2009.
While he is in prison for Jackson’s death, the civil trial will question if AEG should be held liable for the doctor’s criminal mistreatment of Michael Jackson. Katherine Jackson and Michael’s children are alleging that AEG Live should be held responsible although a contract between Murray and AEG was not signed until the final month prior to singer’s demise.
The case is expected to last three months. Once the Los Angeles jury is empaneled it will be required to sort through medical records and contracts of both Jackson and Murray for the “This Is It” concert tour.
At question is whether it was Jackson or AEG Live who hired Murray, and whether or not it was possible for AEG to predict that Murray would administer a fatal dosage of propofol.
If the jury determines that AEG was responsible, then it would be required to determine how much in damages should be assessed against AEG.
Katherine Jackson and her lawyers claim that AEG Live hired, supervised and controlled Dr. Murray, “putting its desire for massive profits from the tour over the health and safety of Michael Jackson.” AEG Live says that only Michael hired the doctor and it had no responsibility for how Dr. Murray treated Michael.
Originally, the heirs’ attorneys brought many different wrongful death claims against AEG Live, its parent corporation, and others associated with it. But the defendants asked the judge to dismiss the claims for various reasons. The judge agreed that AEG Live breached no direct duties of care to Michael Jackson and could not be legally responsible for Dr. Murray’s actions as an employee. But the judge allowed one claim to proceed to trial.
AEG Live will focus on Michael Jackson’s troubled past, including his child molestation trial, in an effort to shift the blame onto Michael. Its legal team will try to focus on Michael’s drug addictions and say he — not AEG Live — was responsible for compelling Murray to administer so much propofol.
The Jackson heirs will rely heavily on key e-mails between AEG executives, including ones that stated that AEG, not Michael Jackson, was paying Dr. Murray, and another that stated that AEG had checked out Dr. Murray, who was “extremely successful”. Further, other emails showed that someone within AEG was so concerned with Michael’s health and well being in the months leading up to his death that he recommended immediate psychological intervention. The head of AEG Live denied that request.
Court resumes on April 10.