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AEG lawyers win a round in Michael Jackson lawsuit

(CNS) – Attorneys for AEG Live won a round in court today when a judge ordered Michael Jackson’s mother and his three children to answer more questions about their lawsuit accusing the entertainment conglomerate of negligently hiring Dr. Conrad Murray to care for the late King of Pop.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos also said AEG Live can continue taking Katherine Jackson’s deposition, which began last week but is still incomplete.

Jackson was set to perform a string of 50 shows in London for AEG Live, but he died June 25, 2009 of acute propofol intoxication in Los Angeles while rehearsing for the concert series.

The negligence suit was filed in September 2010 by Katherine Jackson on behalf of herself and her son’s three children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael, alleging the company was negligent in hiring Murray.

The complaint also alleges AEG Live is responsible for the medical decisions made by Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death and was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.

AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam said he was pleased with the ruling, because the judge ordered everything the defense wanted except for monetary sanctions covering the cost of bringing the motion. He said Katherine Jackson’s lawyers cannot make “heinous” allegations in a lawsuit, then refuse to show proof.

Putnam has called the lawsuit a “shakedown” of AEG Live. However, plaintiffs’ attorney Kevin Boyle said the AEG Live motion was “typical defense gamesmanship.”

During the hearing, Boyle claimed some of the questions AEG Live posed to Jackson’s children were highly personal, including whether they had anything in their diary indicating their father “was going to kill himself.”

AEG Live lawyers maintain the firm was not Murray’s employer. They say Katherine Jackson has not provided all the information she has to show that AEG hired Murray to be her late son’s exclusive doctor as he prepared for the tour.

But Boyle said his side provided an extensive response, including statements from two AEG Live executives that Murray was given the job as the singer’s physician.

Attorney Jessica Stebbins, also representing AEG Live, said many of the responses the plaintiffs provided only arrived in her office Monday. Boyle replied that some of the answers took significant time to obtain, but he declined to elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege.

Boyle said he also may move later to amend the complaint further and to ask Palazuelos to appoint a third-party “discovery referee.” The referee, typically a retired judge, would sort out the materials exchanged between boh sides and make recommendations to the judge.

Stebbins said she was not sure a discovery referee is necessary, but would agree to have one if both sides concur on the person serving the role. She also said she may ask Palazuelos to postpone the trial date, now set for Sept. 10, because of the delays in getting the information needed in preparing AEG Live’s defense.


Jackson's Mom Ordered To Hand Over Docs In AEG Fight

Law360, Los Angeles (April 24, 2012, 7:07 PM ET) -- A California judge Tuesday ordered Michael Jackson’s mother to hand over documents and other discovery responses in her lawsuit accusing promoter AEG Live LLC of negligent hiring and breach of contract in connection with the pop icon’s death, but stopped short of issuing sanctions.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos granted AEG’s motions to compel production of documents and interrogatory responses, rejecting Katherine Jackson's argument that the entertainment company’s requests were mooted when she turned over some of the information Monday afternoon.

“I’m going to order the responses without objection,” Judge Palazuelos told attorneys Tuesday. “I took into consideration the fact that there’s been a rolling production of documents and that you’ve been meeting and conferring, by not granting sanctions.”

Tuesday’s order marked the latest chapter in contentious litigation stemming from Jackson’s death from an overdose of the hypnotic agent propofol in June 2009, on the eve of an AEG-produced concert tour.

Jackson’s mother lodged the suit Sept. 15 on her own behalf and as guardian ad litem of Jackson’s children, naming Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. and several individuals as defendants, in addition to AEG.

She alleges that in the run-up to Michael Jackson’s planned “This Is It” tour in the summer of 2009, AEG breached contractual duties with the pop star by putting a “desire for massive profits” from the tour ahead of Jackson’s health and safety.

According to the complaint, Jackson’s health was central to the tour agreement between AEG and Jackson, who was purportedly missing concert rehearsals due to health complications he suffered from taking prescription medications.

In response to Jackson’s health problems, AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray to serve as Jackson’s personal physician, the complaint says.

Murray, under contract with AEG, provided Jackson with “cocktails” of drugs intended to help Jackson sleep, among them the powerful hypnotic agent propofol, the complaint says.

Jackson died on June 25, 2009, after what his mother claimed were several days during which Jackson, subject to AEG’s “grueling” rehearsal schedule, was physically shaken, disoriented and incoherent. A coroner’s report revealed Jackson died of a lethal dose of propofol, according to the complaint.

AEG’s alleged disregard for Jackson’s well-being and the company’s insistence that Murray alone treat Jackson contributed to the star’s death, Jackson’s mother claims, arguing that AEG failed to perform due diligence in hiring Murray, and recklessly and intentionally ignored her son's personal health.

Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in November and sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the star's death.

AEG filed motions to compel discovery in March, saying that Jackson had ignored numerous discovery deadlines, failing to produce a single document or meaningful interrogatory response and not showing up to a March 1 deposition.

At the hearing Tuesday, AEG’s attorney Jessica L. Stebbins argued that Jackson’s failure to hand over documents and sit for a deposition until after the company filed its motions justified monetary sanctions. Jackson recently commenced her deposition, which is ongoing, according to AEG.

“Only after moving to compel did we finally get deposition dates for Ms. Jackson and responses to our discovery,” Stebbins said. “If we hadn’t moved to compel, I don’t think we ever would have gotten this discovery. We got it at 3 p.m. the day before this hearing.”

Jackson’s attorney Kevin Boyle denied that he and his client were intentionally delaying the handover of information.

“I know the timing looks like that, but that’s really not what happened,” Boyle said. “Yesterday, Monday, was the first day that we could have this ready.”

Judge Palazuelos granted AEG’s discovery motions but declined to order sanctions.

“You can’t file this type of heinous, heinous lawsuit, and then stand back and see what happens,” AEG’s attorney Marvin Putnam said Tuesday. “You are required to come forward and say what the basis is for making these claims, and [Jackson] has refused to do so, and has refused to do so since filing suit. And the court has now ordered that she has to.”

Jackson’s attorney Boyle applauded the judge’s decision to reject sanctions.

“AEG was, for whatever reason trying, to sanction Ms. Jackson and Michael Jackson’s children, and the judge wouldn’t allow it, and that was a good thing,” he said.

Jackson is represented by Brian Panish, Kevin Boyle, Peter J. Polos and Robert Glassman of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Michael Koskoff and Bill Bloss of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder PC, and K.C. Maxwell.

The defendants are represented by Marvin S. Putnam, Jessica L. Stebbins and Kathryn Cahan of O'Melveny & Myers LLP.

--Additional reporting by Derek Hawkins and Roxanne Palmer. Editing by Kat Laskowski.