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AEG execs face questions about Michael Jacksons death


LOS ANGELES, Calif. — AEG Live filed an insurance claim to recover losses from Michael Jackson’s death the same day he died, according to a lawyer for Jackson’s family.

That revelation may not relate to the heart of the wrongful death lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s last concert promoter, but Jackson lawyers hope it could sway jurors to see AEG Live executives as motivated by money over the pop icon’s needs.

It is one of many points Jackson lawyers will try to make Monday when they call AEG Live’s top lawyer to the witness stand as the trial’s fourth week begins in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Jackson’s mother and three children contend AEG Live is liable in the singer’s death because its executives negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The promoters ignored a series of red flags that should have warned them Jackson was in danger as he was pressured to get ready for his comeback concerts, the Jackson lawsuit claims.

AEG Live lawyers counter that it was Jackson who chose, hired and supervised Dr. Murray, and that he was responsible for his own bad decisions. Its executives could not be expected to know Murray was using the surgical anesthetic propofol — the drug the coroner ruled killed him — to treat his insomnia, they argue.

Jackson lead lawyer Brian Panish will question AEG Live general counsel Shawn Trell about his company’s negotiations with Murray to be Jackson’s personal physician for his “This Is It” shows in London.

The doctor signed the contract prepared by AEG lawyers and sent it back to the company a day before Jackson’s death. The company argues it was not an executed contract because their executives and Michael Jackson never signed it.

The Jackson lawyers argue that e-mails, budget documents and the fact that the doctor was already working for two months showed a binding agreement between AEG and Murray.

Panish, speaking outside of the courtroom Friday, said he would also ask Trell about AEG’s insurance claim, which he said his team recently discovered was filed with Lloyds of London on June 25, 2009 — hours after Jackson was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center.

A Lloyds of London underwriter later sued AEG, claiming he company failed to disclose information about the pop star’s health and drug use. AEG dropped its claim for a $17.5 million insurance policy last year.

Monday’s court will start with AEG Live controller Julie Hollander completing her testimony about the company’s budgeting, which she acknowledged included $1.5 million approved to pay Dr. Murray. The doctor’s costs were listed as production costs — expenses that AEG is responsible for paying — and not as an advance, which Jackson would ultimately be responsible for giving back to the company, she testified.

The controller’s testimony appears to contradict the argument AEG lead lawyer Marvin Putnam made in a CNN interview days before the trial began.

AEG Live’s role with Murray was only to “forward” money owed to him by Jackson, just as a patient would use their “MasterCard,” Putnam said. “If you go to your doctor and you pay with a credit card, obviously MasterCard in that instance, depending on your credit card, is providing the money to that doctor for services until you pay it back. Now, are you telling them MasterCard in some measure in that instance, did MasterCard hire the doctor or did you? Well, clearly you did. I think the analogy works in this instance.”

Jackson lawyers played video testimony of one of AEG’s own expert witnesses Friday — 25-year veteran tour manager Marty Hom.

The opinion Hom submitted for AEG concluded he saw no red flags that should have alerted the promoter that something was wrong with Dr. Murray.

He was asked if AEG Live should have realized something was wrong when Dr. Murray initially asked for $5 million a year to work as Jackson’s personal physician. “That raised a red flag because of the enormous sum of money,” Hom testified.

Hom acknowledged he had not seen many of the documents and depositions in the case — and AEG was considering him for a job as the Rollings Stones tour manager at the same time he was asked to testify.

Alan Duke | CNN