|Jury: AEG Live Not Liable for Michael Jackson's Death|
|By LESLEY MESSER (@lesleymesser) and NANCY RAMSEY||Oct 2, 2013, 5:44 PM|
After less than a week of deliberation, the jury in Michael Jackson's family's wrongful death suit against AEG Live ruled in favor of the concert promotion company.
The King of Pop's mother, Katherine Jackson, and his three children -- Prince, Paris and Blanket -- sued the concert promoter in 2010, claiming that the company was negligent in hiring Dr. Conrad Murray to tend to the pop star.
"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," said Marvin Putnam of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, lead trial counsel for the defendants in the lawsuit, shortly after the verdict.
In speaking with the media later, Putnam called the verdict a "great testament to how our system works." Noting that the Jackson family had initially asked for $40.2 billion, he said that in going to trial, AEG Live was defending its "good name" and was not willing to "settle for something they think is a shakedown."
AEG Live and companies like it are "not going to simply bend and settle for something they think is wrong and create a precedent no one should have to live with," he added. "These are real people who are being accused of killing Michael Jackson."
AEG Live executive Randy Phillips, who was personally named in the suit, said, "I counted Michael Jackson [as] 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."
"AEG has denied for years, and continues to deny, that they hired Dr. Conrad Murray. The jury found unanimously that AEG hired Dr. Murray. AEG has repeated the mantra that this lawsuit was a shakedown. Such a statement is a slap in the face of the entire judicial system that allowed this case to get to a jury," Katherine Jackson said in a statement.
"We have said from the beginning that this case was a search for the truth. We found the truth. AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray, the man who is in jail for killing Michael Jackson. All options regarding the balance of the jury verdict are being considered," she added.
Speaking at the press conference, jury foreman Gregg Barden echoed the attorneys' view of the case as tragic all around.
"We don't walk away thinking it was a victory on one side or the other," Barden said. "It was a tragic situation."
In 2011, Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering a fatal dose of propofol. Today, the jury ruled that AEG Live was responsible for hiring Murray, but that he was not unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired.
"We are disappointed by the verdict but respect the jury system," said Brian Panish, the Jacksons' attorney.
When asked whether the family would appeal, Panish said, "We will evaluate everything and decide."
Throughout the trial, Jackson's drug use was discussed at great length, as was his passion for performing. Those who knew the singer claimed that his planned "This Is It" tour was to be his big comeback, but AEG Live's representatives said that the tour never would have been financed if they'd known about Jackson's dependency on painkillers.
"Michael Jackson was used to getting his own way, he was a big star, he had all these doctors who wanted to be his doctor," said juror Kevin Smith. "If anybody said no, they were out of the mix."