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Michael Jackson Jury: AEG Not Liable in Wrongful Death Suit

A Los Angeles jury found that entertainment giant AEG was not liable in a wrongful death case brought by the family of Michael Jackson.

The victory for AEG came after a five-month trial that focused on whether its AEG Live division, which was to be the promoter of Jackson’s “This Is It” concert tour, ignored signs of the singer’s ill health and was responsible for hiring Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol that led to the singer’s 2009 death.

The jury was instructed to answer up to 16 questions in determining the extent of AEG’s responsibility. To the first question, whether AEG hired Murray, the jury answered yes. But to the second, whether Murray was unfit or incompetent, the jury answered no. That effectively ended the case.

During the trial, AEG’s attorneys argued that it was Jackson who chose Murray, and that the singer’s use of propofol started many years before their relationship with him.

The trial delved not only into Jackson’s personal life but into some of AEG’s practices in managing an event with a singer well known for his eccentricities. The Jackson family lawyer’s nevertheless argued that AEG turned a blind eye to his physical condition while pressing him to do the tour. Some estimates were that, if the Jackson family was victorious, damages could top $1 billion.

The jury of six women and six men began their deliberations on Thursday and reached a verdict early on Wednesday afternoon. During their deliberations, they asked to see a contract drafted by AEG Live for Murray’s services and the video “This Is It,” a documentary based on rehearsals for Jackson’s comeback shows.

Dan Beckerman, president and CEO of AEG, said in a statement, “I am pleased that the jury recognized that this lawsuit was without merit, and the entire AEG family looks forward to putting this unfortunate chapter behind us.” The company’s lead counsel, Marvin Putnam of O’Melveny & Myers, said that “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.”

Earlier in the trial, Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos had dismissed AEG Live executives Randy Phillips and Paul Gongaware from the case after they were named in the original suit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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