Attorneys for AEG Live won a round in court Tuesday when a judge ordered Michael Jackson's mother and his three children to answer more questions about their lawsuit accusing the entertainment conglomerate of negligently hiring Dr. Conrad Murray to care for the late King of Pop.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos also said AEG Live can continue taking Katherine Jackson's deposition, which began last week but is still incomplete.
Jackson was set to perform a string of 50 shows in London for AEG Live, but he died June 25, 2009 of acute propofol intoxication in Los Angeles while rehearsing for the concert series.
The negligence suit was filed in September 2010 by Katherine Jackson on behalf of herself and her son's three children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael, alleging the company was negligent in hiring Murray.
The complaint also alleges AEG Live is responsible for the medical decisions made by Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death and was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.
AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam said he was pleased with the ruling, because the judge ordered everything the defense wanted except for monetary sanctions covering the cost of bringing the motion. He said Katherine Jackson's lawyers cannot make "heinous'' allegations in a lawsuit, then refuse to show proof.
Putnam has called the lawsuit a "shakedown'' of AEG Live.
However, plaintiffs' attorney Kevin Boyle said the AEG Live motion was "typical defense gamesmanship.''
During the hearing, Boyle claimed some of the questions AEG Live posed to Jackson's children were highly personal, including whether they had anything in their diary indicating their father "was going to kill himself.''
AEG Live lawyers maintain the firm was not Murray's employer. They say Katherine Jackson has not provided all the information she has to show that AEG hired Murray to be her late son's exclusive doctor as he prepared for the tour.
But Boyle said his side provided an extensive response, including statements from two AEG Live executives that Murray was given the job as the singer's physician.
Attorney Jessica Stebbins, also representing AEG Live, said many of the responses the plaintiffs provided only arrived in her office Monday. Boyle replied that some of the answers took significant time to obtain, but he declined to elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege.
Boyle said he also may move later to amend the complaint further and to ask Palazuelos to appoint a third-party "discovery referee.'' The referee, typically a retired judge, would sort out the materials exchanged between boh sides and make recommendations to the judge.
Stebbins said she was not sure a discovery referee is necessary, but would agree to have one if both sides concur on the person serving the role. She also said she may ask Palazuelos to postpone the trial date, now set for Sept. 10, because of the delays in getting the information needed in preparing AEG Live's defense.