(AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
New evidence has come to light that shows Michael Jackson’s doctor was under pressure by promoters to help the pop star perform at an upcoming concert. Jackson’s mother and three children have sued AEG Live, which was putting on the concert Jackson was supposed to play in London that summer.
Conrad Murray was sentenced in November 2011 to serve four years for involuntary manslaughter of Jackson, who died from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol and sedatives.
Wrongful Death – Whose Fault?
Despite Murray’s conviction, it’s not the first time Jackson’s family has tried to sue civilly over the pop star’s death. His father Joe tried to sue the doctor, but Jackson’s mother had already filed a similar suit. Joe Jackson’s suit was dismissed.
The plaintiffs say AEG hired and was responsible for Jackson’s personal physician Conrad Murray’s behavior, including his administration of the lethal overdose.
“Jackson’s mother is interested in trying to show that in addition to hiring a reckless doctor, AEG Live should also be held liable for allegedly acting in a careless fashion with her son’s life,” observes Mitch Jackson, a personal injury lawyer with Jackson & Wilson, Inc. in Laguna Hills, Calif. (no relation to the Jackson family).
The case centers on the theory of “respondeat superior,” meaning that an employer is responsible for the wrongful actions of its employees. “This and similar types of legal theories consisting of successive acts of negligence and wrongdoing between parties can indeed result in a company such as AEG Live being held liable in the civil courts for the wrongful death of Michael Jackson,” says Jackson.
Emails unsealed by the court in Los Angeles last week reportedly show that AEG Live, which was paying Murray $150,000 a month, pressured him to do whatever he had to do to get Jackson to rehearsals and allow him to play the show, despite his poor health.
Murray is reported as having already said that an AEG Live representative told him AEG Live owned “the toilet paper he wipes his *** with” and “the f**kin’ popsicles that his children are sucking on,” and “if he doesn’t get the show done he’s over,” Jackson points out.
In another email, which Jackson family lawyers are calling a smoking gun, AEG Live’s co-CEO wrote to another exec at the company concerning Murray’s having kept Jackson away from a rehearsal: “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.”
Top-Notch Plaintiffs’ Lawyers
Smoking gun emails notwithstanding, Jackson says he thinks the Jackson family will have to come up with more facts in order to link AEG Live to Murray’s actions and Jackson’s death.
The fact that Murray has been convicted for Jackson’s death will, under California law in general, help AEG Live, Jackson says, since that criminal act is viewed as “severing” the link between AEG Live’s actions and Jackson’s death.
However, Jackson’s family does have a shot at winning this case. The criminal conviction against Murray “does not mean other responsible people or organizations should not also be held civilly liable,” Jackson adds.
“This new information certainly doesn’t help AEG Live’s defense and even the trial judge has ruled that there is a triable issue of material fact that should allow the wrongful death case to go before a jury in April,” he says.
“I know the plaintiffs’ lawyers, and they are very, very good,” Jackson adds. “If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Brian Panish and his experienced team of lawyers.”