Michael Jackson - HIStory This Is It
Michael Jackson - HIStory This Is It

Michael Jackson's family sue promoters over death

THE late King of Pop came under the spotlight once more, as details of the days leading up to Michael Jackson's demise four years ago were aired at the start of a wrongful death trial in Los Angeles.

Jackson's mother claims concert promoters AEG Live were responsible for hiring and directing the star's personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2011 and is serving four years in jail.

Katherine Jackson, 82, son Randy and daughter Rebbie were at court for the first day of the trial, which is expected to air new revelations regarding Jackson's death in June 2009 from an overdose of the powerful prescription anaesthetic propofol.

Murray was hired as Jackson, then 50, prepared for a series of 50 comeback concerts at the O2 arena in London.

Mrs Jackson and the star's three children Prince, 16, Paris, 14 and 11-year-old Blanket, filed their civil suit in September 2010, claiming AEG failed adequately to vet the doctor.

Mrs Jackson's legal team will rely heavily on a cache of 250 private emails exchanged by AEG executives during rehearsals for Jackson's "This Is It" concert series.

The messages reportedly chronicle the firm's dogged insistence that the star continue to perform, despite his decline.

In one exchange, AEG promoter Randy Phillips allegedly explained to the company president Tim Leiwecke that he had found Jackson locked in his London hotel room, drunk, the day before he was due to announce the concerts.

"I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking," Phillips wrote.

"He is an emotionally paralysed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt."

Two months after the singer's death, Phillips allegedly wrote: "Michael's death is a terrible tragedy, but life must go on. AEG will make a fortune from merch sales, ticket retention, the touring exhibition and the film/dvd."

AEG finally netted around £160m from the documentary This Is It.

The plaintiffs' suit suggests: "AEG had legal duties to Michael Jackson to treat him safely and to not put him in harm's way. But AEG, despite its knowledge of Michael Jackson's physical condition, breached those duties by putting its desire for massive profits from the tour over the health and safety of [Jackson]."

The Jackson family says Murray, who was heavily in debt, expected to earn a monthly salary of $150,000 from AEG, a conflict of interest which allegedly meant Jackson's ability to perform took precedence over his health.

AEG denies any wrongdoing and argues that Jackson personally selected Murray, who had treated him previously.

Murray regularly prescribed Jackson propofol to combat his insomnia.

The jury of six men and six women heard opening statements from both sides yesterday, in a case that is expected to uncover evidence of the star's struggles with addiction, and could see the Jackson family awarded billions of dollars in damages.

AEG has claimed in court filings that the Jacksons are seeking as much as $40bn (£26bn) in damages, but the family's lawyer Brian Panish denies having named any figure.

Potential witnesses include Jackson's children; his ex-wives Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe; and several friends, including Diana Ross, Spike Lee and producer Quincy Jones.

The trial could last as long as 90 days, though the civil proceedings will take place away from the cameras. Just two fans won a lottery for the sole pair of seats available to the general public in the cramped courtroom.