Michael Jackson jury could award more than $1 billion

Michael Jackson jury could award more than $1 billion
Michael Jackson family attorney Brian Panish sits in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse as bailiffs are sworn in to protect jury. (AL Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Only nine jurors will be needed to reach a verdict in the Michael Jackson wrongful-death trial, a case that will answer the question of whether one of the nation’s largest concert promoters is responsible for the pop stars’ overdose death as he prepared for a comeback tour in 2009.

Unlike a criminal trial, in which all 12 jurors must agree on a verdict, only nine are need in a civil case.


Jurors, who began a first full-day of deliberations Friday, must wade through weeks of testimony and a small mountain of documents, including email chains of top AEG Live executives discussing Jackson’s mental and physical health and who his personal physician – Dr. Conrad Murray – answered to.

Jackson’s mother and three children contend that AEG Live, an entertainment powerhouse that owns arenas and stadium around the world, aggressively pushed Jackson to pull off his scheduled “This Is It” comeback concerts in London even though his health was precarious. The suit says it was AEG that hired and controlled Murray, who administered the fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol that killed the entertainer.

AEG counters that it was Jackson, who they said had a history of doctor shopping, who brought aboard Murray.

The stakes in the case could be enormous if jurors determine that AEG is liable in Jackson's death.

Brian Panish, the attorney for the Jackson family, urged jurors to award $85 million to each of the pop singer’s children, and an additional $35 million for his mother, Katherine Jackson.

A far more hefty sum also could be awarded the family in economic damages if jurors rule against AEG. Panish reminded jurors earlier this week that an expert witness calculated that Jackson could have earned as much as $1.6 billion if he had gone on to stage a multi-year worldwide tour, made new music and participated in a Las Vegas show later in life.

Panish invited jurors to come up with what they thought was a fair number, hinting that it should fall somewhere between $1.2 and $1.6 billion.

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

AEG's attorneys, though, scoffed at the calculation, saying that its expert witness had determined that Jackson's future earnings – had he lived – would be closer to $21 million. Jackson has a checkered history when it came to completing tours, they said.

AEG attorney Marvin Putnam said the Jacksons have no proof to back up their case.

"This has never been anything other than a shakedown," he said.