Alleges company's actions led to performer's death
Michael Jackson’s mother has sued “This Is It” concert promoter AEG Live, its parent company and executives and director Kenny Ortega, alleging the company’s “actions and inactions” led to the performer’s June 25, 2009, death.
Suit was filed Wednesday, Sept. 15, in Los Angeles Superior Court by Katherine Jackson on behalf of herself and her son’s minor children, Michael Jr., Paris and Prince. Defendants include AEG parent Anschutz Entertainment Group and its prexy Tim Leiweke, AEG Live prexy Randy Phillips and co-CEO Paul Gongaware.
Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray is not a defendant in the case. The singer’s father, Joe Jackson, has filed a wrongful death action against the physician, who also faces criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter.
According to the action, Jackson and AEG Live’s Phillips signed an agreement in January 2009 for the musician’s “This Is It” appearances at the O2 Arena in London. The contract was securitized on Jackson’s end by assets that included his interest in publisher Sony/ATV, which controls the Beatles songs, among others.
“By virtue of (the agreement), AEG came to control much of Jackson’s life,” the suit claims. It alleges that after Jackson began missing rehearsals for the shows in May 2009, AEG insisted that Jackson change doctors.
Around the same time, the suit alleges, AEG hired Murray as Jackson’s “concierge physician” under an 11-month, $150,000-per-month contract. Murray began administering medications to Jackson, including Valium, Ativan, Versed and propofol.
After Jackson failed to appear at a June 18 rehearsal, AEG insisted the singer take only the medications given to him by Murray and threatened to cancel the tour if he failed to perform. The execs also told Murray to ensure Jackson’s appearance at rehearsals.Jackson was allegedly shivering and disoriented at rehearsals on the two days before his death. He died from acute propofol intoxication June 25.
The action states, “AEG knew or should have known that it was jeopardizing Jackson’s health and safety by assuming control over the doctor-patient relationship.…and by directing and influencing Murray to act without regard to medical safety standards.”
In a statement, AEG said “The lawsuit is inaccurate, unsubstantiated and meritless. Dr. Murray was Mr. Jackson’s longtime personal physician. AEG did not choose him, hire him or supervise him. That said, and in honor of our professional relationship with Mr. Jackson and his Estate, we will have no further public statements.”
The suit, alleging breach of contract, negligent hiring and supervision, fraud and infliction of emotional distress, seeks damages to be determined at trial.