Jury Gets it Right – AEG Live Not Responsible for Michael Jackson’s Death

A Los Angeles jury just decided that Dr. Conrad Murray was hired by AEG Live, but that the company has no responsibility for any negligence by Dr. Murray that led to the death of Michael Jackson.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had hoped that if they could convince the jurors that AEG Live hired Murray, they would hold AEG liable for Jackson’s death due to the negligence of Murray.

Sometimes in big cases like this, attorneys lose sight of basic legal principles. If decided properly, this case was properly unwinnable. In the first place, even if AEG did hire Murray, it would only be liable if it was negligent in some way. For example, if Murray was a quack and AEG was aware of that fact, it could be liable under a theory of negligent hiring. However, Murray had no history of negligence. There was no reason for AEG to suspect that Murray would be a risk to Jackson. The best plaintiffs’ counsel could do in that regard was to argue that Murray had financial problems. From there, they were hoping that the jurors would make the leap in logic that if Murray had financial problems, he might do anything to keep Jackson happy to keep his job, even if it was not good medicine.

The jurors rejected that logic. They did find that AEG Live had hired Murray, but that’s as far as they would go. They rejected all of the claims that would have supported an award of damages.

Additionally, even if the jury had found a basis for damages (plaintiffs were seeking between one and two billion dollars in damages), since the claim was for negligence, any award would have to be reduced by Jackson’s own contributory negligence. What is the percentage of Jackson’s culpability when he was the one demanding that Murray give him the drug that caused his death. Some would hold him only partially responsible, reasoning that the doctor should have intervened, while others would hold him entirely responsible, reasoning that people should be responsible for their own decision. Plaintiffs’ counsel suggested that any award should be reduced by 20% to account for Jackson’s contributory negligence.

This case was at best a Hail Mary, and with the benefit of my always perfect 20-20 hindsight, should never have been brought.

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