Concert promoter AEG Live cleared of negligence in Michael Jackson's death

Family loses lawsuit claiming AEG was responsible for death of 'King of Pop' by hiring an unfit doctor, Conrad Murray, who prescribed overdose

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 9:55am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 5:05am

A Los Angeles jury cleared concert promoter AEG Live of liability in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Michael Jackson, in a trial that offered a glimpse into the private life of the so-called King of Pop.

The verdict that the doctor the company hired to care for the singer was not unfit for his job capped a sensational five-month trial that is expected to change the way entertainment companies treat their most risky talent.

"The jury's decision completely vindicates AEG Live, confirming what we have known from the start - that although Michael Jackson's death was a terrible tragedy, it was not a tragedy of AEG Live's making," defence attorney Marvin Putnam said following Wednesday's verdict.

Putnam, who was heckled by Jackson supporters outside the court, said after the trial that AEG Live had never considered settling the case out of court.

Still, the case sent shock waves through the music industry, with concert promoters as well as well-known entertainment insurers expected to beef up policies for acts they insure and potentially raise some prices.

Jackson's 83-year-old mother, Katherine, and his three children sued AEG Live over the singer's 2009 death at age 50 in Los Angeles from an overdose of the surgical anaesthetic propofol.

The Jackson family claimed in its lawsuit that AEG Live, the concert division of privately held Anschutz Entertainment Group, negligently hired Conrad Murray as Jackson's personal physician and ignored signs that the Thriller singer was in poor health.

The family matriarch was in court for the verdict, on the fourth day of deliberations, and appeared emotional as it was read, lifting her glasses to wipe at her eyes.

She smiled briefly as she left the courtroom.

In explaining the verdict outside court, jury foreman Gregg Barden said jurors had concluded that Murray was competent for the job he was hired to do.

"We felt he was competent to do the job of general practitioner," said Barden, who works for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Now that doesn't mean that we thought he was ethical, and maybe had the word ethical been in the question, it could have been a different outcome."

Juror Kevin Smith, 61, added: "If AEG had known what was going on behind closed doors it would probably have made a world of difference, but they didn't."

Murray, who was caring for Jackson as the singer rehearsed for his series of 50 comeback "This Is It" concerts, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for administering the propofol that killed the star. He is due to be released later this month.

Jackson family lawyer Kevin Boyle said outside court that the family was "of course not happy" with the verdict. "We will be exploring all options, legally and factually," Boyle said.

Jackson family lawyers had suggested that damages could exceed US$1 billion if AEG Live was found liable. AEG Live had argued that it was Jackson who chose Murray as his physician.