Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tour promoter slams ‘absurd’ Jackson damages claim - ( M4L4YS14 )

The promoters of Michael Jackson’s doomed last tour slammed as “absurd” Wednesday a massive claim by his family for damages over the pop icon’s 2009 death.

A lawyer for AEG Live, making his closing argument at the end of a five-month trial, said the promoter would never have funded the “This Is It” tour if it knew the star was playing “Russian roulette” with his own health.

On Tuesday, the Jackson family’s lawyer, closing his own case in a Los Angeles courtroom, proposed a figure of $ 290 million for non-economic damages, as well as an unspecified sum for economic damages.

Jackson lawyer Brian Panish cited accountants’ analyses of Jackson’s potential future earnings of between about $ 900 million and $ 1.6 billion, but said the jury would have to decide its own figure.

AEG Live’s attorney Marvin Putnam said Wednesday a claim on such scale was ridiculous.

“Their dollar amount is $ 1.5 billion dollars. They kinda rushed through that,” he said, referring to the studies cited by Panish the previous day, including in slides shown in court.

“I’m sorry, that’s an absurd number. And they haven’t even remotely proved it.”

Jackson, 50, died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol at his rented mansion in Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the “This is It” shows at London’s 02 Arena.

Dr 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.

But the promoter’s lawyer said Wednesday that AEG Live never actually hired Murray, who it noted had treated Jackson and his children over several years.

“You can’t negligently hire someone unless you hire them,” said Putnam, adding: “The evidence is very clear that Michael Jackson was the one who hired Dr Murray.”

Referring to the nightly propofol infusions given to Jackson by Murray, the lawyer said: “AEG never would have agreed to finance this tour if it knew that Mr Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night.”

Jackson was “responsible for his own health, certainly his own healthcare, and he’s reponsible for his own choices, no matter how bad those choices turn out to be,” Putnam said.

“The truth here is a tragedy … It’s a tragedy for this family, a tragedy for his mother, a tragedy for his kids. It’s horrible and it’s incredibly sad. But it’s not a tragedy of AEG Live’s making.”

Katherine Jackson, who was in court again on Wednesday after attending regularly throughout the trial, is taking the legal action on her behalf and that of Jackson’s three children: 16-year-old Prince, Paris, 15, and 11-year-old “Blanket.”

If the six-man, six woman jury decides in the Jackson family’s favor, Panish suggested jurors split whatever compensation amount they decide on in the ratio of 30 percent for each of the three children, and 10 percent for Jackson’s mother.

For the final stage of the trial, which began in April, the judge moved proceedings to a large, 300-seat courtroom to accommodate extra media and Jackson fans who have turned up to see the climax of the case.

On Thursday Jackson lawyer Panish is expected to have one last chance to make his case to the jury, in rebuttal of his rival’s closing arguments Wednesday.

After Panish has finished, the jury will retire to consider its verdict.