Monday, February 2, 2015
C.A. Affirms Judgment Absolving AEG in Michael Jackson’s Death
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district Friday rejected all claims made by Michael Jackson’s mother against concert promoter AEG Live, LLC in connection with her son’s death.
Justice Sandy Kriegler, writing for Div. Five, said Katherine Jackson, who sued on her own behalf and as guardian ad litem for Michael Jackson’s children, failed to show that AEG was responsible for the actions of Dr. Conrad Murray, whom the promoter hired to care for the singer during his “This Is It” Tour.
Michael Jackson died in June 2009 while preparing for the tour. Katherine Jackson argued that Murray—who was convicted of manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s death by drug intoxication—was responsible and was acting as an AEG employee, and that the promoter was negligent in the doctor’s hiring, training, and retention.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos granted AEG summary adjudication on the general negligence claim, concluding that AEG was not liable for Murray’s acts or omissions because the doctor was an independent contractor, not an AEG employee or agent. The case went to trial solely on the claim of negligent hiring and retention, which ended in a jury verdict for AEG after five months of testimony.
In concluding that the trial judge was correct in granting summary adjudication of the general negligence claim, Kriegler cited testimony, in connection with the motion, that it was Jackson who told AEG executives he wanted Murray—whom he met in 2006 through a security guard whose father was a patient—to come on the tour as his doctor, describing him as Jackson’s personal physician. Jackson, according to the testimony, personally told AEG to offer Murray $150,000 a month for his services, which Murray agreed to, later signing a contract with AEG.
There was, Kriegler said, no evidence the promoter told Murray how to treat the singer or had the right to control the treatment. The contention that the contract between AEG and Murray created an employment relationship fails, the justice said, because nothing in the contract gave AEG the right “to direct the manner or means by which he provided [medical] services” to Jackson.
Nor, the justice wrote, was there a triable claim that AEG was directly negligent in failing to intervene in the doctor-patient relationship.
Care Argument ‘Vague’
Kriegler derided as “vague and exceptionally broad” the argument that the promoter had undertaken a duty to oversee the “medical care” received by the singer during the tour.
“Such a broad duty is not only contrary to the case law, but the evidence demonstrates AEG did not undertake Michael’s medical care in its entirety,” the jurist wrote. “AEG did not prevent Michael from seeing other doctors, and Michael in fact did so during the months leading up to his death. Thus, the trial court properly found there was no evidence that AEG undertook Michael’s medical care.”
As for the portion of the case that went to trial, Kriegler rejected the plaintiff’s claims that jurors were likely to have been confused by the instructions or the special verdict form.
Verdict Form Adequate
Plaintiff’s counsel had argued that the verdict form was inadequate because it only addressed negligent hiring, not retention or supervision. Kriegler, however, said the jury completely resolved the issue by finding that Murray was not unfit or incompetent to do the job he was hired for.
An attorney for AEG hailed the ruling.
“Today in a strongly worded opinion, the court of appeal found what took a jury two days to see through and that is that AEG was in no way responsible for the tragic death of Michael Jackson,” Marvin S. Putnam told The Associated Press.
Kevin Boyle, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, said his office was still reading the ruling and did not have an immediate comment.
The case is Jackson v. AEG Live, LLC, 15 S.O.S. 655.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company