Conversation between AEG Live executives and director Kenny Ortega via emails was revealed as a judge unsealed documents in the Michael Jackson wrongful death lawsuit filed by the star's mother and three children. The emails suggested that bosses at the concert promoter giant were worried about MJ's missed rehearsals of his "This Is It" concert series and wanted Dr. Conrad Murray to fix the problem.
While a lawyer for AEG Live insisted that the disgraced cardiologist was not employed by the company, an email sent by co-CEO Paul Gongaware to concert director Ortega 11 days before the King of Pop died suggested otherwise. "We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him," the executive allegedly wrote.
According to CNN, lawyers for Katherine Jackson and her grandchildren called the email a "smoking gun" linking AEG Live to the death of "Thriller" hitmaker. They argued it proved that the company used Murray's fear of losing his $150,000-a-month job as Jackson's personal physician to pressure him to have Jackson ready for rehearsals despite his fragile health.
In another email, AEG Live's President Randy Phillips sang high praise for what Murray did to have MJ show up for rehearsals when Ortega expressed concerns about the singer's condition after he witnessed that the late popstar was shivering during a rehearsal a week before his death.
"It is like there are two people there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him, the other in this weakened and troubled state. I believe we need professional guidance in this matter," the director said, to which Phillips replied, "This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig so he is totally unbiased and ethical."
The Jackson team also used an email sent by AEG Live tour accountant Timm Woolley to an insurance broker two days before Jackson died to prove their claim that the promoter was responsible for the doctor's conduct and breached its duty to properly care for the late star. "Randy Phillips and Dr. Murray are responsible for MJ rehearsal and attendance schedule," the email reportedly read.
Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos saw the emails as enough evidences for the Jacksons to move forward with their claim that AEG Live had negligently hired and supervised Murray when he served to care for MJ's health during the final preparations of his concert series. The judge also agreed that the company failed to properly investigate Murray before agreeing to pay him to care for MJ's physical well-being.
In a Monday hearing, the Jacksons' attorney said AEG Live should know better than hiring a doctor with debt problem because it could create a serious conflict between his duty to treat the client safely and his own financial issues.
"There is a triable issue of fact as to whether it was foreseeable that such a physician under strong financial pressure may compromise his Hippocratic Oath and do what was known by AEG Live's executives to be an unfortunate practice in the entertainment industry for financial gain," the judge concluded.
Besides accusing the concert promoter of negligence in hiring and supervising the former cardiologist, the Jackson family believes the company was responsible for the doctor's conduct and breached its duty to properly care for the late star, but the accusations were dismissed by judge.
Trial will start April 2. Dr. Conrad Murray who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after it's found that he provided the King of Pop with a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol is included in the witness list along with MJ's oldest son Prince. While the doctor didn't testify in his own involuntary manslaughter, AEG Live's co-CEO Gongaware did.
He testified in court that he served as a tour manager for MJ's "Dangerous" and "History" tours before joining AEG Live. The statement was used by judge to counter AEG Live's argument that they could not have foreseen the use of dangerous drugs on Jackson by Murray. The judge cited "Gongaware's general knowledge of the ethical issues surrounding 'tour doctors' and the practice of administering drugs to performing artists."
The Jackson family is seeking a judgment against AEG Live equal to the money Jackson would have earned over the course of his remaining lifetime if he had not died in 2009. If the family wins, the company can lose multi billion dollars, according to estimates of Jackson's income potential. AEG Live is a subsidiary of AEG, a global entertainment company that is now for sale with an $8 billion asking price.