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Jackson family is seeking $290 million in personal damages from AEG

For the first time, the family's attorneys put a dollar figure on what they want for the singer's death. That doesn't include economic damages of as much as $1.6 billion.

September 24, 2013|By Jeff Gottlieb
  • Brian Panish, attorney for Michael Jackson's family, delivers his closing argument to jurors in a packed courtroom in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Brian Panish, attorney for Michael Jackson's family, delivers his… (AL Seib, Los Angeles Times )

An attorney for Michael Jackson's family told jurors Tuesday that concert promoter AEG Live hired the doctor who administered the fatal dose of an anesthetic and that the company now should pay for the singer's death.

Brian Panish told jurors that AEG should have to pay non-economic or personal damages of $85 million to each of Jackson's three children and $35 million to his mother.

This marked the first time in the nearly five-month-long trial that the Jacksons have placed a dollar figure on damages they are seeking from the entertainment company.

Those figures could be dwarfed by the economic damages, however. Panish told jurors they would have to sort that out, but he showed them a slide that reminded the panel that an expert witness testified the singer would have earned $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion if he had lived, from new music, tours, endorsements and a Las Vegas show.

"We're not looking for sympathy," Panish said. "We're looking for justice, full and complete."

Panish, speaking in a much more low-keyed manner than when he took testimony, quoted Abraham Lincoln and the Book of Exodus during his daylong closing argument.

He also went straight at the question of Jackson's culpability in his death. "It's about shared responsibility," he said. "Michael probably has some fault.... I'm not going to deny that Michael used prescription drugs and that people told him it's risky to use propofol."

But he said that if Dr. Conrad Murray, who gave Jackson the anesthetic for 60 days to fight his insomnia, had not been hired by AEG, Jackson would still be alive.

"No Murray, no AEG, no propofol, Michael's still here," he said.

The Jacksons have sued AEG for Jackson's death, saying the entertainment firm negligently hired and supervised Murray. AEG maintains that the doctor worked for Jackson and any money the firm was supposed to pay the doctor was an advance to the singer.

AEG attorneys are set to make closing arguments Wednesday, and the case could be in the jury's hands by the end of the week.

Throughout the day, Panish showed jurors the emails that are perhaps the Jacksons' strongest evidence that AEG hired Murray.

One from AEG executive Paul Gongaware talked about an upcoming meeting with Murray. "We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary," Gongaware wrote. "We want him to understand what is expected of him."

Panish used the faulty memories of Gongaware, AEG Live Chief Executive Randy Phillips and Tim Leiweke, then chief executive of parent company Anschutz Entertainment Group, to his advantage.

Panish put up a rapid fire video showing the three men testifying during their depositions using a variation of "I don't know" or "I can't remember" as many as 30 times each.

"They made a legal strategy not to remember anything when they testified under oath," Panish told jurors. "They're not credible or worthy of belief."

Panish also showed a television interview in which Phillips talked about Murray.

"The guy's willing to leave his practice for a very large sum of money, so we hired him," Phillips said.

"It's real simple," Panish said. "He's the CEO of the company, as high as it gets. He admitted it."

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