LOS ANGELES – A California jury on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson’s family seeking massive damages from tour promoter AEG Live over the pop legend’s 2009 death.
At the climax of a five-month trial, the six men and six women panel on the jury agreed that AEG Live recruited doctor Conrad Murray but they found that he was not unfit or incompetent for the job he was hired to do, a key requirement for the Jackson lawsuit to have succeeded.
Jackson’s 83-year-old mother, Katherine, alleged that AEG Live negligently hired and supervised Murray, seeking damages of more than $1.5 billion for herself and the icon’s three children.
Kevin Boyle, one of the Jackson family’s lawyers, voiced disappointment at the verdict, and did not rule out an appeal.
Jackson died June 25, 2009, from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, administered by Murray, at a rented mansion in Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the London shows.
Murray, a Grenada-born cardiologist, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a 2011 criminal trial for giving the drug to Jackson, who suffered from chronic insomnia, to help him sleep. He was jailed for four years but is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
In the civil trial, the singer’s mother — who gave testimony, as did his eldest son, Prince, 16 — alleged that AEG Live missed a series of red flags about the star’s failing health.
The “This is It” tour was Jackson’s bid at a comeback four years after his infamous child molestation trial. He was acquitted, but his image was destroyed and he desperately needed to make money.
The Jacksons wanted AEG Live to pay $85 million to each of the star’s three children for emotional loss, and an unspecified amount for economic losses, estimated at up to $1.6 billion.
AEG Live executive Randy Phillips, one of two key managers who testified at the trial, said after the verdict: “I counted Michael Jackson a creative partner and a friend. We lost one of the world’s greatest musical geniuses, but I am relieved and deeply grateful that the jury recognized that neither I, nor anyone else at AEG Live, played any part in Michael’s tragic death.”
One of the jurors, speaking outside the court afterwards, also underlined that it was not a victory for anyone. “There are really no winners in this,” said Greg Barden. “Somebody had to die for us to be here. . . .We don’t walk away thinking it was a victory on one side or the other. It was really a tragic situation.”
About 20 fans were in court for the verdict. Some, wearing Jackson T-shirts, chanted, “Michael, Michael” outside the building as the AEG Live lawyers were holding a news conference.
“I really hope the Jacksons go through with another trial, try to do an appeal, they deserve it,” one of the fans, Jamie Lee, said. “Katherine is just looking for answers; her son is dead.”