The promoters of late US pop star Michael Jackson’s doomed last tour should pay hundreds of millions of US dollars in damages to the late pop icon’s family over his 2009 death, a lawyer said in closing arguments on Tuesday.
In a heartstrings-tugging final presentation wrapping up a five-month trial, attorney Brian Panish urged jurors to award US$85 million to each of the star’s three children and US$35 million to his mother in so-called non-economic damages, such as the loss of love and comfort.
In the day’s most arresting moment, he played a 15-minute video compilation of Jackson’s hits, including Thriller and the star moonwalking to Billie Jean, combined with home-movie clips of the singer playing with his children.
However, Panish insisted he was not trying to play on the jury’s emotions.
Presiding US Judge Yvette Palazuelos unexpectedly ruled that the final few days of the trial, which started in April, can be televised.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009, from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol at his rented mansion outside Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the “This is It” shows at London’s 02 Arena. He was 50 years old.
Conrad Murray, a 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. Murray was jailed for four years.
In the civil trial, the singer’s mother Katherine Jackson, 83, alleges that AEG Live negligently hired an inappropriate and incompetent doctor and missed a series of red flags about his failing health in the run-up to his death.
AEG Live counters that it did not sign a contract with Murray, and that a promised US$150,000 a month for his services would come from an advance it was making to Jackson, meaning effectively that the star hired his own doctor.
The issue of who hired Murray is crucial to the case, and Panish replayed video clips of AEG Live chief executive officer Randy Philips, in which he told Sky News that Murray was “willing to leave his practice for a very large sum of money.”
“So we hired him,” said Philips, in what could prove decisive in the jurors’ decisionmaking process.
AEG Live’s lead lawyer, Marvin Putnam, was due to present his side’s closing arguments on yesterday.
Panish will then make final rebuttals today, before the jury retires to consider its verdict.