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 his 2009 death.
The 12-person panel agreed that AEG Live hired Conrad Murray, but found that he was not unfit or incompetent for the job, which was one of the requirements for the Jackson lawsuit to succeed. The jury had deliberated for three days after a five-month trial in which the Jackson family alleged that AEG Live negligently hired and supervised Murray.
AEG Live lead lawyer Marvin Putnam welcomed the verdict. "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.
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 recognised that neither I, nor anyone else at AEG Live, played any part in Michael's tragic death."
Jackson died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, given by doctor Conrad Murray at his 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 (S$106 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. The verdict took only minutes to be read out at a Los Angeles courtroom, with answers only given to two out of the 16 questions on the jury verdict form. There was the start of applause when she read out the "Yes" response to the first question, of whether AEG Live hired Murray - a key issue in dispute for the last four years.
But there were gasps when, to the second question, the clerk read "No," effectively announcing the lawsuit had been dismissed. "There was simply no evidence that anyone at AEG did anything wrong," said AEG Live lawyer Putnam.
"The win was a great victory for Mr. Phillips in particular, who was personally sued by the Jacksons."