Four years after Michael Jackson’s death on the eve of his attempted career reboot, jury selection began in the $40 billion wrongful death suit filed by the late pop icon’s family against concert promoter AEG Live.
While the Jacksons claim that the company behind Jackson’s planned 50-date “This Is It” show in London should be held responsible for his death on June 25, 2009, AEG is expected to argue that Jackson was to blame for his passing at age 50.
Jackson family claims:
Jackson struggled for decades with an addiction to powerful prescription pain and sleeping medication. Lawyers for Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and his three children are expected to blame AEG Live for hiring Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist who is behind bars on involuntary manslaughter charges after it was determined that he gave Jackson a lethal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, which resulted in his death.
It’s possible that Katherine Jackson and eldest children Prince and Paris could testify in the trial, which may last several months. The $40 billion figure is the equivalent of what Jackson could have earned for the rest of his life from performing and recording. The suit went forward after a judge determined that lawyers for the estate had provided enough evidence that AEG Live was negligent in hiring Murray and should have known that the doctor would use dangerous combinations of prescription drugs to treat the singer’s chronic insomnia.
One of the keys to the family’s case is an e-mail sent by AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware 11 days before Jackson’s death that provides evidence that “This Is It” show director Kenny Ortega expressed concerns to Murray about Jackson’s health the previous day. “We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary,” read the e-mail. “We want to remind him what is expected of him.”
Lawyers for the Jackson family will argue that the e-mail is proof that AEG Live traded on Murray’s fear of losing his lucrative gig taking care of Jackson to pressure him to do whatever it took to get the singer ready for the concerts, regardless of Jackson’s fragile condition.
Conrad Murray started treating Jackson six days a Week in May 2009, but it wasn’t until the night before the singer’s death that he officially signed his service contract with AEG Live; Putnam said AEG Live’s executives never signed the contract.