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Jacksons vs. AEG Live Wrongful-Death Case

michael-jacksonAfter AEG Live was sued by Michael Jackson’s mother and his three children, jurors decided the entertainment firm was not responsible for the pop icon’s death.

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LOS ANGELES — As paramedics arrived at Michael Jackson’s rented Holmby Hills mansion, the pop singer’s personal chef testified that the performer’s bodyguard immediately asked her if she signed a confidentiality agreement.


Michael Jackson (credit: Los Angeles Times)

Kai Chase told a Los Angeles jury Wedneday that she and the other house staff were told to leave Jackson’s Holmby Hills estate by bodyguard Alberto Alvarez, who she said then asked her to sign a piece of paper after learning she hadn’t signed a confidentiality agreement.

The paper had no letterhead or other signature, Chase testified, but had a paragraph written on it. Chase said she read the text but could not recall its contents. “It was four years ago,” she said.

The star died in June 2009 after Dr. Conrad Murray administered a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is currently serving jail time.

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LOS ANGELES — A high-ranking AEG executive testified Tuesday that he had known for years that Michael Jackson was taking painkillers but wasn’t aware he was abusing them until the pop singer abruptly canceled his Dangerous world tour in the early 1990s to enter rehab.

Paul Gongaware, the co-chief executive of AEG Live’s touring division Concerts West, testified that although he was the manager of the Dangerous tour and knew Jackson was being given painkillers, he didn’t know how serious the problem was until the singer made a public announcement during the tour about his decision to check into rehab.

Gongaware is a defendant along with AEG in a wrongful death suit filed by Jackson’s mother and three children that accuses the concert promotion company of negligently hiring and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray, who gave the singer a fatal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol and is now serving jail time for involuntary manslaughter.

Leaning back casually in his chair as he answered questions from the Jackson family attorney, Gongaware said he knew a doctor was medicating Jackson during the Dangerous tour but did not find out why the tour was eventually cut short.

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LOS ANGELES — Hours before Anschutz Entertainment Group executives were heading to Michael Jackson’s Holmby Hills home to sign multimillion-dollar contracts for his concert series in London, the firm’s top lawyer called Jackson “the freak” in an email to another company attorney.


AEG’s top lawyer referred to Michael Jackson as “the freak,” according to an email. (Los Angeles Times)

The revelation, which came during the last 15 minutes of court Wednesday, enlivened the day’s testimony in the wrongful death suit that Michael Jackson’s mother and children have filed against AEG.

The email was shown to the jury during the testimony of Shawn Trell, general counsel for AEG Live, who has been on the witness stand for three days.

Trell’s questioning began with Jackson attorney Brian Panish asking the lawyer about his visit to the singer’s house to sign the contracts, the only time he met Jackson. “It was exciting to meet Michael Jackson,” he said.

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LOS ANGELES — A few months before Michael Jackson’s death, AEG executives were told that the performer had passed a medical exam “with flying colors,” an in-house attorney for the company testified Wednesday.


Michael Jackson

Shawn Trell, senior vice president and general counsel for AEG, said he contacted a London insurance broker in November 2008 to inquire about cancellation insurance for “This Is It,” a series of planned concerts touted as Jackson’s comeback tour.

Cancellation insurance, Trell said, is a typical way to recoup advances made to an artist when an event falls through. According to its contract with Jackson, AEG had advanced the singer close to $30 million, an amount that included a $15-million line of credit and $7.5 million to cover production costs to mount the shows.

Insurance carriers, however, were “skittish” due to tabloid reports about Jackson’s health, Trell said. The London broker, Bob Taylor, suggested that Jackson have a medical exam by Dr. David Slavit of New York, who was trusted by the carriers.

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During preparations for his anticipated “This Is It” performances in London, Michael Jackson at times seemed “under the influence of something” during rehearsals and once couldn’t take the stage because he appeared incoherent, the pop singer’s choreographer testified Tuesday.

Travis Payne,  who worked with Jackson on his Dangerous and HIStory world tours and was back aboard for the comeback concerts, said Jackson had trouble picking up some of the show’s choreography and requested a teleprompter to help him with lyrics — something the singer had never done before.

Payne said he was aware that Jackson had problems sleeping and chalked up the singer’s sometimes erratic behavior to sleep aids or sedatives from his dermatologist visits.

“You have to understand that one always says hindsight is 20/20,” he said. “In the moment I had no inkling of what, ultimately, what was revealed until Mr. Jackson’s passing.”

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LOS ANGELES – The costume designer who worked with Michael Jackson was alarmed by the music legend’s frail figure during his last days, a makeup artist testified Friday.

Michael Bush — who created much of the singer’s wardrobe for 25 years and wrote a book about the experience — appeared upset after he finished up a June 2009 fitting inside Jackson’s bathroom at Staples Center, Karen Faye said.

“He said ‘Oh my god, Turkle. I could see Michael’s heartbeat through the skin in his chest,’” Faye recounted.

Turkle was Jackson’s nickname for Faye, who worked as his makeup artist off and on for nearly three decades.

LOS ANGELES — A makeup artist testified Friday that before a concert in Bangkok, Michael Jackson was having a hard time walking, seemed to be in a daze and stumbled over a potted tree in his dressing room before finally being led on stage to perform.

Karen Faye, who said she had worked with Jackson for more than two decades and considered him a close friend, said she knew the pop singer was using painkillers but she had refused requests to learn how to give him injections.

The testimony, by far the most dramatic so far in a wrongful death suit filed by the singer’s mother and children, focused on a period in Jackson’s life when he was recuperating from being seriously burned during a Pepsi ad and was under pressure because of child molestation allegations.

Faye testified that while backstage in Bangkok, she turned to someone she knew as “Dr. Forecast” and urged him not to let the wobbly Jackson take the stage.

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Michael Jackson

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s behavior and gaunt figure were so troublesome to a producer that she told the director of the “This Is It” concert series that she believed the singer was dying and should be immediately taken to a hospital.

Alif Sankey told a jury Wednesday in the Jackson family’s wrongful death suit against Anschutz Entertainment Group that she told the concert series’ director that Jackson should be taken to a hospital immediately.

Sankey recalled that on her way home from rehearsal one night, she pulled her car over and called Kenny Ortega, who was directing what was to be Jackson’s comeback tour. It was only days before Jackson’s first concert was to take place.

“I said, ‘He needs to be put in the hospital now,’ ” Sankey said. “He kept listening to me because I kept going. I kept saying, ‘Michael’s dying, he’s dying.’”

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michael-in-motion-slideLOS ANGELES, Calif. — Michael Jackson had a long list of prescription drugs in his system when he died in the days before his anticipated comeback tour, a toxicologist with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office testified Monday.

Dan Anderson, the first witness called in the second week of the lawsuit that Michael Jackson’s mother and three children filed against entertainment giant AEG, continued what has been an unvarnished look into the entertainer’s final days.

A Los Angeles Police Department detective already testified that when he saw Jackson spread on a bed in his rented Holmby Hills mansion, the pop singer resembled an end stage cancer patient who’d come home to die.

Testimony also recounted how Jackson’s family had tried to get him to quit drugs, including a failed intervention effort at this Neverland ranch.

On Monday, Anderson testified that tests of Jackson’s blood, urine and internal organs showed traces of the anesthetic propofol, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and lorazepam, the short-term anesthetic midazolam and lidocaine, a numbing cream that paramedics sometimes use in resuscitation efforts.

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