LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday ruled the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson’s mother can proceed against concert promoter AEG Live, setting up a legal showdown between Katherine Jackson and the company she blames for the “Thriller” singer’s demise.
The lawsuit accuses AEG of being responsible for medical decisions made by Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, whose care was funded by the company.
Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s June 25, 2009, death, age 50, from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol which the doctor gave as a sleep aid and other sedatives and painkillers.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos on Wednesday denied a motion by AEG, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, to dismiss Katherine Jackson’s case against the company.
But the judge said lawyers for the singer’s 80 year-old mother would need to show evidence of fraud, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.
Palazuelos said she had doubts about civil conspiracy, because there were no details in the lawsuit saying AEG and Murray had an agreement to break the law, in providing medical care to Jackson.
“If the object was to get him to rehearsals, I don’t see that as a wrongful or illegal act,” she said.
Jackson was preparing for his “This Is It” series of 50 comeback concerts in London when he died, and Murray was going to accompany him to Britain for the shows.
AEG attorney Marvin Putnam, in arguments before the judge, said the company could not have realized beforehand that Murray’s medical decisions would lead to Jackson’s death.
“It’s not foreseeable that Michael Jackson or anyone else was going to die in their own home of propofol,” Putnam said.
During a preliminary hearing last month in the criminal case against Murray, witnesses testified that propofol is administered in surgery and never recommended for home use.
The judge in that separate case found there was sufficient evidence to try Murray, and he wondered out loud why the doctor would have used propofol on Jackson as a sleep aid.
Murray’s involuntary manslaughter trial is scheduled to begin on March 28. He faces a maximum of four years in prison.
Katherine Jackson’s wrongful death lawsuit was filed in September and includes the singer’s three children as co-plaintiffs.
Kenny Ortega, a choreographer who was directing Jackson’s rehearsals, was originally named as a defendant. But Katherine Jackson’s attorneys recently dropped him from the suit, citing new information.
In court papers, AEG’s attorneys said the company “did not choose or hire Dr. Murray” and merely conducted negotiations aimed at “retaining him as an independent contractor.”
The next hearing in Katherine Jackson’s civil case is scheduled for March 22.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte