AEG Execs Dropped from Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Suit
The judge in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial dismissed top AEG Live executives as individual defendants, but declined a motion from the defense to toss out the entire lawsuit.
Randy Phillips and Paul Gongaware, co-CEOs of the concert promotion company, will not be held liable for Jackson’s 2009 death. The fate of the lawsuit against the company itself will be in the hands of a jury in upcoming weeks, Judge Yvette Palazuelos ruled yesterday.
AEG is being sued by Jackson’s family, alleging that the company negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2011 for giving Jackson a fatal overdose of anesthetic. AEG claims that Jackson himself chose Murray to be his personal physician.
AEG attorney, Marvin S. Putnam, tried to sink the entire claim yesterday, arguing “I really think it would be inappropriate here for this to go to a jury.”
But Palazuelos rebuffed the request, writing, “A jury may logically infer from the evidence that (Jackson) died because Dr. Murray, who was adversely affected by a conflict of interest created by his contractual arrangement with AEG, treated a deteriorating insomniac who was not ready to perform, causing Dr. Murray to make bad medical decisions that caused (Jackson’s) death.”
Gongaware and Phillips have both faced heat during the trial. Back in June, Gongaware was forced to admit on the stand that he wrote the infamous email to a tour director stating ”We want to remind [Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.”
And Phillips had to explain an email he sent after Jackson was too drunk and despondent to make a scheduled appearance in which he said he screamed “so loud the walls were shaking,” slapped Jackson and put him in a cold shower. On the stand, Phillips claimed he was worried the singer was destroying his career, but the slap was just a playful one on the butt.
Plaintiff attorneys have argued that the executives exerted undue control over Murray, and that they missed signs of the singer’s deterioration, but as per the judge’s ruling the pair has escaped any personal liability.
The trial will continue next week with the remainder of AEG’s defense, after this week’s testimony was cancelled so a juror could attend to a family emergency.