Jackson lawyer blames "ruthless" promoter for singer’s death

2013-04-30 09:20

Los Angeles – A lawyer for Michael Jackson’s family has blamed a concert promoter for his 2009 death, telling a jury that the company ruthlessly disregarded Jackson’s health as he prepared for a lucrative comeback tour.

On the opening day of trial yesterday in the family’s wrongful death lawsuit, Brian Panish accused AEG Live of choosing to ignore Jackson’s drug problems to push ahead with the This Is It concert tour, which could have netted $450 million (R4 billion) in ticket sales.

A lawyer for the company said it had been unable to foresee Jackson’s problems because of a “wall of secrecy” he built up around his habits.

“AEG, like everyone else, was an outsider,” said attorney Marvin Putnam, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They had no idea. It was going on behind locked doors.”

Jackson’s three children and his mother claim AEG should be held legally responsible for his death because it hired the singer’s doctor, who was allegedly pressured to ignore the pop star’s frailty so as not to derail the concerts.

Cardiologist Conrad Murray is serving a prison term for second-degree manslaughter, after a jury found he had ignored conventional medical practice by giving Jackson the surgical anaesthetic propofil as a sleeping aid.

Jackson died of a heart attack at age 50 in June 2009.

“Michael had a problem, Dr Murray had a problem, and AEG had a problem,” Panish told the jury of six men and six women at the civil trial.

“You know what AEG’s problem was? They were not number one in the concert business, but they wanted to be. It didn’t matter what it took,” he said.

“AEG had a problem, and they wanted to fix it, and they didn’t care who got lost in the wash.”

The trial is expected to last four months. The witness list includes Jackson’s two eldest children, along with Hollywood director Spike Lee, music producer Quincy Jones, musician Prince, pop icon Diana Ross and Jackson’s ex-wives, Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe.

No monetary amount has been set in a request for damages, but Jackson’s lawyers are expected to argue that the star could have earned more than 1 billion dollars had he survived for his natural life span.

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