Once again Michael Jackson’s later years and death are to be revisited in an LA courtroom, as a jury will hear opening statements in the wrongful death suit brought against concert promotion company AEG Live by Jackson’s family.
Expected to last three months, potential witnesses in the the $40bn civil trial include Prince, Diana Ross and Quincy Jones , in addition to Jackson’s ex-wives, Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, and his two eldest children Prince, 16 and Paris 15.
Central to the suit, which was brought by Jackson’s mother Katherine, is Dr Conrad Murray, as it accuses AEG Live of negligence in his hiring as Jackson’s personal physician. It was back in 2011 that Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and given a four-year sentence in prison for administering propofol, a strong anesthetic, to Jackson as a sleeping aid.
Jackson died only two weeks before his globally anticipated This Is It comeback concerts were set to begin at the O2 arena in 2009. He was found in his bed not breathing by Murray, and was pronounced dead at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on 25 June 2009.
The suit alleges that AEG hired and supervised Murray, and that the company’s hunger for profits was put over the star’s health.
“AEG had legal duties to Michael Jackson to treat him safely and to not put him in harm’s way. But AEG, despite its knowledge of Michael Jackson’s physical condition, breached those duties by putting its desire for massive profits from the tour over the health and safety of Michael Jackson,” it claims.
A series of emails sent to AEG Live president Randy Phillips days before Jackson’s death are likely to be presented in court, in which concert promoter Kenny Ortega expresses concern about Jackson’s condition, warning that the singer was “trembling” and “rambling.”
In one of the emails, first acquired by the Daily News, Ortega wrote “I honestly felt if I had encouraged or allowed him on stage last night he could have hurt himself.” Phillips replied: “It is critical that neither you, me, or anyone around this show become amateur psychiatrists or physicians.” Phillips added that he was in contact with Murray and had an “immense respect” for the doctor.
AEG Live’s stance on the matter is that Jackson himself hired Murray, and that the company as such had no responsibility on how he treated the singer. Just last month the promotion company won a legal argument to bring up Jackson’s 2005 child abuse case at the trial as it could be of relevance to his history of prescription drug abuse.
Though Jackson’s family is seeing $40bn, if AEG Live is found to have been responsible, the jury will decide any award based on Jackson’s potential earnings had he lived beyond his 50th birthday.