Michael Jackson’s Mom Brings Wrongful Death Suit (Analysis)

Fresh off the news ticker this  morning is that Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine Jackson has brought a wrongful death action against concert promoter AEG. on behalf of Jackson’s three children.  According to the article, the promoter was negligent in allowing Dr. Conrad Murray to care exclusively for Jackson.

The merits of that argument will rely, no doubt, on some contractual provisions between the promoter and Jackson dealing with his health. Those who give on the spot opinions as to whether the suit is good or not, without knowing what those contracts say, will likely be speaking in a vacuum.

But that doesn’t mean that the commentariat can’t engage in issue identification to see where potential problems may arise.

While at first blush the mixing of contract law and tort law (negligence) might sound unusual, this actually happens with some frequency when hospitals are sued regarding their liability for doctors that work at the hospitals. Some are employees, and some are independent contractors. Depending on the state you are in, it will likely depend on the written contract as well as whether the impression was given to the patient that the doctor was an employee. So that is how contracts and torts may mix, but the Jackson case is clearly unusual in that he was outside the hospital, and depending possibly on who was paying Dr. Murray.

I’ve written about the potential for such a wrongful death suit before, so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel. Below are my prior posts and ruminations, with the top one looking at not only the employment angle, but also the difficulty in calculating the loss.

On the one hand, the estate has reaped spectacular sums of money with Jackson’s early demise, as so often happens with celebrity death. So wouldn’t that offset any recovery from AEG, if such recovery were possible, rendering the suit moot? Perhaps not. In New York, the damages are fixed at the time of death. What happens after death doesn’t count. But if the future profits were foreseeable, then perhaps part or all of that money should be used to offset any recovery?

This is gonna be one funky case when it comes to calculating damages, worthy of being a law exam question. And it’s even more unusual because the kids likely don’t need any of the money

And what of a malpractice suit against Dr. Murray? It would likely yield little (unless he had some kind of extraordinary malpractice policy just for Jackson), under the well-known legal principle that you can’t get blood from a stone. The article doesn’t say if Murray  was sued, but if not, the promoter may start a third-party action, point the finger at him, and say “look over there!” Or they may simply point at the empty chair and ask a jury why the obvious culprit wasn’t sued.

Other legal action related to this: Jackson’s father Joe Jackson has brought his own wrongful death suit. And Dr. Murray is facing charges manslaughter charges. Prosecuting doctors for manslaughter is not unprecedented, but as one of my guest bloggers previously wrote, it is quite rare.

My prior posts on the subject:

Michael Jackson’s Mom To Start Wrongful Death Action Against Concert Promoter? (February 11, 2009)

Michael Jackson: Malpractice or Manslaughter (Or Something Else)? (August 16, 2009)

Michael Jackson: The Mother of All Malpractice Suits? (August 6,2009, one day after death)


Tags:

2 Responses Leave a comment

  • Lawson 2010.9.16 at 20:05 | Quote

    After so many years of people loving Michael Jackson, and the family being so messed up, I am not surprised that the doctor is in such a difficult situation. It must be challenging to be the doctor to a high profile patient, because everyone will have a tendency to persecute the doctor if something goes wrong.

    Thanks for the article…

    Regards,
    Lawson

Comments are closed.


The New York Personal Injury Law Blog is sponsored by its creator, Eric Turkewitz of The Turkewitz Law Firm. The blog might be considered a form of attorney advertising in accordance with New York rules going into effect February 1, 2007 (22 NYCRR 1200.1, et. seq.) As of July 14, 2008, Law.com became an advertiser, as you can see in the sidebar. Law.com does not control the editorial content of the blog in any way.

Throughout the blog as it develops, you may see examples of cases we have handled, or cases from others, that are used for illustrative purposes. Since all cases are different, and legal authority may change from year to year, it is important to remember that prior results in any particular case do not guarantee or predict similar outcomes with respect to any future matter, including yours, in which any lawyer or law firm may be retained.

Some of the commentary may be become outdated. Some might be a minority opinion, or simply wrong. No reader should consider this site (or any other) to be authoritative, and if a legal issue is presented, the reader should contact an attorney of his or her own choosing for advice.

Finally, we are not responsible for the comments of others that may be added to this site.