Michael Jackson Family Loses $1.5B Lawsuit Against Concert Promoter

The 21-week trial focused on whether concert promoter AEG was negligent in hiring Dr. Conrad Murray

Michael Jackson's family lost its $1.5 billion negligent hiring lawsuit against international concert promoter AEG Live Wednesday.

Jackson died of a drug overdose in 2009 at age 50, after being given a fatal dose of propofol, according to the LA County Coroner. In 2011, Dr. Conrad Murray, who administered the propofol injection, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, filed the negligence case against AEG Live, promoter of Jackson's "This Is It" tour, in 2010.

During the 21-week trial in Los Angeles, attorneys for the Jackson family claimed AEG did not properly investigate Murray and was only concerned with the money Jackson's comeback tour would bring the company.

Jurors were tasked with answering a 16-item questionnaire to determine their verdict. If they responded "no" to any of the first five questions, their verdict would be sealed in favor of the promoter.

After two days of deliberations, jurors decided that AEG did hire Murray but that the doctor was not "unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired."

"I think the bottom line is, there's no reason for AEG to have known that (Murray) would do bad things," said Royal Oakes, NBC4 legal analyst.

"... Nobody had any idea he'd be feeding propofol, a surgical anesthetic, to Michael Jackson, playing Russian Roulette with Jackson's life every night."

Jackson family attorney Brian Panish was not in court for the reading of the verdict Wednesday.


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Last week, he blamed AEG for putting profit ahead of Jackson's health.

"AEG is in the business of making money," Panish said Thursday during his closing arguments. "They didn't want a comeback. They wanted Michael so they could make money."

The lawyer focused on emails between AEG executives referring to the fact that Jackson wanted Murray to care for him during the concerts. He also showed jurors details of a contract drafted by AEG but only signed by Murray.

But defense attorney Marvin Putnam claimed that Jackson insisted on hiring the cardiologist against objections from AEG. During closing arguments, he said Jackson's own "bad choices" and decision to hire Murray resulted in his death.

"It was his money and he certainly wasn't going to take no for an answer," Putnam said. "AEG Live did not have a crystal ball. Dr. Murray and Mr. Jackson fooled everyone. They want to blame AEG for something no one saw."

Murray administered the fatal dose of propofol to the 50-year-old entertainer at Jackson's rented Holmby Hills mansion after a late-night rehearsal for the concerts. Murray is currently serving a four-year prison term for the involuntary manslaughter conviction.

He told NBC's Matt Lauer Thursday that he cried after the AEG verdict and was "relieved" that the "world had a chance to hear" facts that he said they weren't allowed to come up in his criminal trial. 

A unanimous vote was not required to reach a verdict. Nine jurors had to be in agreement for the verdict to carry.

The six men and six women were unanimous in their answer to question No. 1, and voted 10-2 against question No. 2 to decide in favor of AEG.

They considered testimony presented by AEG officials, medical experts, Jackson family members and others with knowledge of the relationship involving AEG, Murray and Jackson. Jackson's daughter Paris and son Prince testified for the court.

Prince, now 16, recounted for the court the scene in his father's bedroom on the day of his death. He told jurors he heard screams from the upstairs bedroom and saw his father slumped off the side of the bed.

Jackson's mother testified that AEG officials should have reached out the the family for help. She told the jury "they watched him waste away" and that she had never heard of Murray until after her 50-year-old son's death.

Jury members received instructions Monday on how to evaluate the evidence. The judge told jurors they must not be swayed by prejudice, sympathy or public opinion. They also were told not to consider the wealth of the parties.

Earlier this month, two AEG executives who promoted the concert tour were dismissed from the case. The judge threw out the cases against Chief Executive Randy Phillips and executive Paul Gongaware, both of whom testified during the trial, because the plaintiffs did not prove they could be held responsible the death of the pop star.

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