Michael Jackson's family sue concert promoter over singer's death

The Jacksons say AEG Live is responsible for hiring Conrad Murray, physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter

A multi-billion dollar lawsuit over the death of Michael Jackson will go to jury trial next month, a judge has ruled. The singer's mother and his three children are suing AEG Live – the promoter of Jackson's doomed comeback shows at the O2 Arena in London in 2009 – for causing wrongful death.

This week Los Angeles courts unsealed documents relating to the upcoming trial – due to begin on 2 April. The case centres on AEG's oversight of and responsibility for Dr Conrad Murray, Jackson's physician, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last November for prescribing and administering the drug that killed Jackson. Both Murray and Jackson's elder son, 16-year-old Prince, are on the trial's proposed list of witnesses.

AEG's lawyers insist Murray was not its employee; they claim he worked directly for Jackson. But Katherine and the rest of the family have challenged that claim, saying that AEG brought in Murray as its medical proxy while Jackson was rehearsing for his This Is It gigs, which did not go ahead because of the singer's death on 25 June 2009. Lawyers have pointed to a so-called "smoking gun" email, from AEG's co-CEO, who said, "We want to remind [Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him."

Jackson's family argue that AEG pushed Murray to make sure the singer would be ready for his gigs, disregarding medical warning signs. AEG is also accused of botching Murray's background check – overlooking the large debts that made him susceptible to financial pressure. When This Is It director Kenny Ortega wrote an email to AEG, asking for "professional guidance" to deal with Jackson's "weakened and troubled state", company president Randy Phillips replied: "This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig so he is totally unbiased and ethical."

According to Los Angeles County superior court judge Yvette Palazuelos, AEG employees' "previous tour experiences" with Jackson would have made them aware that Jackson's "tour doctors" had given him controlled substances. "There is a triable issue of fact as to whether it was foreseeable that … a physician under strong financial pressure [might] compromise his Hippocratic oath and do what was known by AEG Live's executives to be an unfortunate practice in the entertainment industry," she wrote.

If found liable, AEG Live could be ordered to pay more than the entire value of the company – estimated at $8bn (£5.3bn). The Jacksons are seeking a judgment commensurate with the money Michael would have earned had he not died in 2009. "The truth about what happened to Michael, which AEG has tried to keep hidden from the public since the day Michael died, is finally emerging," the Jacksons' lawyer, Kevin Boyle, told CNN. "We look forward to the trial where the rest of the story will come to light."

Contributor

Sean Michaels

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Michael Jackson's O2 concert promoter denies bankruptcy | Sean Michaels

AEG Live says the cancellation of Michael Jackson's string of 50 concerts will be offset by insurance, potential DVD sales of his last rehearsal – and perhaps by replacing the O2 booking with a nine-month tribute

Sean Michaels

03, Jul, 2009 @10:55 AM

Michael Jackson's doctor charged over pop singer's drugs death

Conrad Murray freed on $75,000 bail after pleading not guilty to involuntary manslaughter

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

09, Feb, 2010 @1:12 AM

Article image
Michael Jackson's children put in care of singer's nephew
Tito Jackson's son TJ to care for Paris, Prince and Blanket after Katherine Jackson's sudden disappearance to Arizona

Sean Michaels

26, Jul, 2012 @8:54 AM

Article image
Michael Jackson's father refiles wrongful death lawsuit
Joe Jackson seeking unspecified damages from Conrad Murray, the doctor who was treating his son at the time of his death

Sean Michaels

02, Dec, 2010 @11:57 AM

Article image
Michael Jackson's son Prince breaks silence on family crisis

Jackson's 15-year-old son has accused his aunts and uncles of denying access to his grandmother and former legal guardian, Katherine Jackson

Sean Michaels

27, Jul, 2012 @10:06 AM

Article image
Michael Jackson: Al Sharpton flies in as battle joined over singer's death and legacy
Questions grow over who was in the medical entourage that surrounded the late Michael Jackson

Chris McGreal in Washington and Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles

28, Jun, 2009 @8:45 PM

Article image
After the tributes, the twist: was Michael Jackson's death murder?
TMZ website says several sources have told them police have concluded Jackson was killed by an anaesthetic

Chris McGreal in Washington

15, Jul, 2009 @10:17 PM

First anniversary of Michael Jackson's death

25 June 2010: Fans and impersonators mark the first anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson

25, Jun, 2010 @4:09 PM

Article image
Michael Jackson's family call on MSNBC to cancel Conrad Murray documentary
Singer's sister LaToya Jackson says it is 'morally reprehensible to cloak a murderer and convicted felon with celebrity status'

Sean Michaels

11, Nov, 2011 @10:58 AM

Article image
Michael Jackson promoter 'worked without a contract'
AEG's Kenny Ortega was hired on an agreement laid out solely via emails during ill-fated This Is It tour, court hears

Dan Martin

21, May, 2013 @11:28 AM