April 30, 2013 11:36

Michael Jackson family's £26 billion court case against AEG Live opens

Concert promoters are accused of failing to vet late singer's doctor Conrad Murray

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Concert promoters AEG Live have been accused of failing to vet Michael Jackson's former doctor Conrad Murray on the opening day (April 29) of the £26 billion civil trial brought by the late singer's family.

Brian Panish, who represents Jackson's relatives, told a court in Los Angeles the promoters had not properly investigated Murray's background before he was hired to serve as Jackson's personal physician. Murray gave the singer the overdose of sedative Propofol that led to his death in 2009. He was jailed in 2011 after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Panish also told the court that AEG Live was the only party that maintained it was unaware of Jackson's addiction to prescription drugs, reports BBC News. "Over the years Michael's family and people who knew him believed he had a problem with prescription medication," he told a jury of six men and six women. "His stirring voice, his musical genius, his creativity and his generosity and his huge heart was extinguished forever," he said, adding that jurors would have to decide who was responsible for the star's death.

But AEG Live denied that they hired Murray, arguing that they could not have foreseen the circumstances that led to Jackson's premature death. Lawyer Marvin Putnam also said Jackson's closely guarded private life left the promoters in the dark about his drug dependence. "The public Michael Jackson was very different from the private Michael Jackson," Putnam argued. "He erected a wall between himself and his family. Even his family wasn't sure what was going on at the house. He kept those who might have been able to help him at a distance. AEG, like everyone else, was an outsider. They had no idea. [The drug use] was going on behind locked doors."

The late singer's children Prince, 16, and Paris, 14, are due to appear on the stand at Los Angeles County Superior Court at some point. Jackson's family are seeking £26 billion in damages against AEG Live, accusing the promoter of negligence which contributed to Jackson’s death before his 50-show comeback tour at London's O2 Arena. Other stars expected to testify during the three-month long trial include Prince and Diana Ross as well as producer Quincy Jones and Jackson's ex-wives, Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe.

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