Jackson lawyers point to another e-mail exchange as evidence that Phillips was directly involved with pressuring Murray to have Jackson at rehearsals. The e-mail was sent by AEG Live tour accountant Timm Woolley to an insurance broker two days before Jackson died: “Randy Phillips and Dr. Murray are responsible for MJ rehearsal and attendance schedule.”
Murray told investigators two days after Jackson’s death that he used the surgical anesthetic propofol every night for two months to help him rest for rehearsals. It was a procedure Jackson demanded, he said. The Los Angeles County coroner ruled that Jackson had died from an overdose of propofol in combination with sedatives. Murray is serving a prison sentence for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.
AEG Live argues it has no liability in Jackson’s death because Murray was not its employee. AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam did not respond Sunday to CNN calls for comment, but he did give a short statement last year: “Defendants did not hire Dr. Murray nor were they responsible for the death of Michael Jackson.”
The lawsuit seeks a judgment against AEG Live equal to the money Jackson would have earned over the course of his remaining lifetime if he had not died in 2009. If AEG Live is found liable, it could cost the company several billion dollars, according to estimates of Jackson’s income potential. AEG Live is a subsidiary of AEG, a global entertainment company that is now for sale with an $8 billion asking price.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos, in her ruling rejecting AEG Live’s request to have the case thrown out, said she agreed that the Jackson lawyers provided evidence that AEG Live didn’t do “a sufficient background check of Dr. Murray, which would have established that Murray was deeply in debt.”
Jackson’s previous relationship with Murray, who treated him and his children for minor illnesses in Las Vegas, did not relieve AEG Live of liability, “although the fact may be relevant in determining proportional liability and damages,” she said.
While the AEG Live lawyers argued the company could not have foreseen that Murray might use dangerous drugs on Jackson in preparation for the tour, Palazuelos said there was evidence that Gongaware had “previous tour experiences” with Jackson in which “tour doctors” gave “large amounts of drugs/controlled substances to him.” Gongaware testified in Murray’s trial that he worked as tour manager for Jackson’s “Dangerous” and “History” tours before joining AEG Live.
The judge cited “Gongaware’s general knowledge of the ethical issues surrounding ‘tour doctors’ and the practice of administering drugs to performing artists.”
“There is a triable issue of fact as to whether it was foreseeable that such a physician under strong financial pressure may compromise his Hippocratic Oath and do what was known by AEG Live’s executives to be an unfortunate practice in the entertainment industry for financial gain,” the judge wrote.