Entertainment group AEG did not properly check Dr. Conrad Murray’s background before bringing him on board for Michael Jackson’s ill-fated “This Is It” tour, a human-resources consultant testified Monday.
Jean Seawright, head of the Florida-based Seawright & Associates consulting group, said that based on her review of the case, AEG Live “did indeed fail to follow adequate hiring practices” in the selection of Murray, regardless if he was considered a company employee or independent contractor.
Seawright, an expert witness retained by the attorneys representing Jackson’s mother and three children in their wrongful death lawsuit, said her testimony came under the assumption that AEG hired Murray, who gave the singer a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol in 2009. The jury will ultimately determine which party retained the doctor. Jackson’s family alleges AEG hired and controlled Murray, while AEG maintains he worked for Jackson.
Murray is serving time in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Seawright called the role of Jackson’s personal physician a “very high-risk position” given the responsibilities of the job – such as accessing the singer’s medical history and personal life, working remotely and providing medical care.
Companies following appropriate hiring practices assess the risks of a position before hiring, she said. When asked by Jackson family attorney Brian Panish if she thought AEG had done so in this case, Seawright said she “saw no evidence of that.”
Seawright then testified about an email from AEG Chief Executive Randy Phillips to tour director Kenny Ortega, in which Phillips said Murray was “extremely successful” – noting “we check everyone out” – and “does not need this gig, so he is totally unbiased and ethical.”
Seawright said that email indicated Phillips understood the criteria for the job and that AEG had a process in place for examining its workers. When asked if she saw evidence indicating the company in fact “checked out” Murray’s background, she replied: “I did not.”
Ultimately, she said, the email indicated AEG was in a “sort of trap … where if you don’t check out a worker adequately, then you are in a situation like this.”
“It was Mr. Phillips saying what he hoped was the case but we later found out was not the case,” she said.