LOS ANGELES (AFP) ― 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 12-person panel agreed that AEG Live hired doctor Conrad Murray, but 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.
The jury had deliberated for three days in Los Angeles, after a trial in which the Jackson family alleged that AEG Live negligently hired and supervised Murray.
AEG Live lead lawyer Marvin Putnam welcomed the verdict.
|Juror Gregg Barden speaks to media after the AEG Jackson trial verdict Wednesday in Los Angeles. (AP-Yonhap News)|
“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,” he said in a statement.
Kevin Boyle, one of the Jackson family’s lawyers, voiced disappointment at the verdict, and did not rule out an appeal.
“We are of course not happy with the result as it stands now. We will be exploring all options legally and factually and make a decision about anything at a later time,” he told reporters outside court.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, given by Murray at the star’s rented mansion in Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the shows at London’s O2 Arena.
Murray, a Grenada-born cardiologist, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a criminal trial in 2011 for giving the drug to the star ― who suffered from chronic insomnia ― to help him sleep. He was jailed for four years.
In the civil trial, the singer’s mother Katherine Jackson, 83, alleged that AEG Live negligently hired an inappropriate and incompetent doctor and missed a series of red flags about the star’s failing health in the run-up to his death.
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’s lawyers called the figures ridiculous.
AEG Live executive Randy Phillips, one of two key managers who testified at the trial, said: “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.”
AEG Live attorney Putnam said an appeal would only prolong the suffering of Jacksons’ children. “The children have been through a lot. I hope for their sake that there isn’t an appeal,” he said.
He added: “There was simply no evidence that anyone at AEG did anything wrong .. The win was a great victory for Mr. Phillips in particular, who was personally sued by the Jacksons.”
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.”
A spokeswoman for the Jackson family, Angel Howansky, said “As of right now ,they don’t want to speak about it.”