By Jeff Gottlieb
6:07 PM EDT, September 26, 2013
High on drama and filled with sensational testimony about Michael Jackson’s colorful yet erratic life, jurors Thursday afternoon were handed a wrongful-death case in which the pop star’s mother and three children could be awarded tens of millions of dollars.
The case began in the spring and included dozens of witnesses, from Jackson’s tearful mother to a concert producer who testified that Jackson’s health was so precarious near the end that she believed he was dying.
The question that jurors will have to decide is whether it was entertainment giant AEG that hired Conrad Murray, the Las Vegas physician who gave Jackson a fatal dose of a powerful anesthetic as he was in the midst of preparing for a 50-night set of concerts in London.
Attorneys for Jackson’s family this week put a price tag on the singer’s 2009 death.
Brian Panish, representing Jackson’s mother and three children, said AEG should pay $85 million in personal damages to each child, and $35 million to Katherine Jackson.
Those figures, though, could pale compared to the potential economic damages that jurors could award if AEG is found liable in Jackson’s death.
An expert witness for the Jackson family calculated that the performer could have made as much as $1.5 billion had he lived from a world tour, endorsements, new music and a Las Vegas show that was under discussion.
But AEG attorney Marvin Putnam scoffed at the calculation, saying its expert witness put the economic damages from Jackson’s death closer to $21 million.
The AEG witness testified that Jackson had a history of canceled shows and erratic behavior that made the likelihood of something like a world tour nearly unthinkable.
The Jackson family contends that AEG, which was promoting what was to be the singer’s comeback tour in 2009, is liable for the pop star’s death because it hired the physician who gave Jackson a fatal dose of a powerful anesthetic.
AEG contends that it was Jackson who brought Murray aboard and that the singer had a history of doctor shopping to get prescription drugs.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death and is serving a jail sentence.
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