Dramatic revelations and legal fireworks expected as Michael Jackson's family begin quest for $40bn damages

Late superstar’s mother claims promoter of London concerts put money before welfare of troubled King of Pop

Los Angeles

The late King of Pop came under the spotlight once more on Monday, as details of the days leading up to Michael Jackson’s demise four years ago were aired at the start of a wrongful death trial in Los Angeles.

Jackson’s mother is suing concert promoters AEG Live for negligence, claiming the firm was responsible for hiring the star’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2011 and is serving four years in jail.

In his opening statement, the Jackson family’s lawyer Brian Panish blamed the singer’s death on a combination of factors, including the star’s own drug dependency. “Michael Jackson, Dr Conrad Murray and AEG Live each played a part in the ultimate result, the death of Michael Jackson,” Panish told the jury of six men and six women.

Katherine Jackson, 82, her son Randy and daughter Rebbie were at court for the opening day of the trial, which is expected to provide new revelations regarding Jackson’s death in June 2009 from an overdose of the powerful prescription anaesthetic propofol. Murray was hired to help Jackson, then 50, to prepare for a series of 50 comeback concerts at the O2 arena in London. Mrs Jackson and the star’s three children filed suit in September 2010, claiming AEG had failed adequately to vet the doctor, who is now appealing his conviction.

Panish told the court that the late star had developed a prescription medication addiction after suffering severe burns during filming for a Pepsi commercial in 1984. Murray regularly prescribed Jackson propofol to combat his insomnia. Jackson’s anxiety and dependency on drugs, said Panish, “became more prevalent when he was going through a rigorous schedule.”

Mrs Jackson’s legal team will rely heavily on a cache of 250 private emails exchanged by AEG executives during rehearsals for Jackson’s “This Is It” concert series. The messages reportedly chronicle the firm’s dogged insistence that the star continue to perform, despite his dramatic physical and emotional decline.

In one email, AEG promoter Randy Phillips allegedly explained to company president Tim Leiwecke that he had found Jackson locked in his London hotel room, drunk, the day before he was due to announce the concerts. “I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking,” Phillips wrote. “He is an emotionally paralysed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt.”

Two months after the singer’s death, Phillips allegedly wrote that, “Michael’s death is a terrible tragedy, but life must go on. AEG will make a fortune from merch sales, ticket retention, the touring exhibition and the film/dvd.”

The plaintiffs’ suit suggests “AEG had legal duties to Michael Jackson to treat him safely and to not put him in harm’s way. But AEG, despite its knowledge of Michael Jackson’s physical condition, breached those duties by putting its desire for massive profits from the tour over the health and safety of Michael Jackson.”

In one key exchange, AEG co-CEO Paul Gongaware, emailed Kenny Ortega, director of the This Is It concerts, saying, “We want to remind [Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.” Eleven days later, Jackson was dead.

In his opening statement, AEG Live's lawyer Marvin Putnam warned the court that it his team would air “some ugly stuff” during the trial, as they defend the firm from any accusations of wrongdoing. AEG argues that the star personally selected Murray, who had treated him previously.

The concert promoter has claimed in court filings that the Jacksons are seeking as much as $40bn (£26bn) in damages, but Panish denies having named a figure. The suggestion of such an extravagant demand is, he said, part of the entertainment firm’s strategy to “prejudice everybody against the Jacksons.”

Among those listed as potential witnesses at the trial are Jackson’s ex-wives Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, and several of his celebrity friends, including Diana Ross, Spike Lee and Thriller producer Quincy Jones. The trial could last as long as 90 days.

As a crowd gathered outside the cramped courthouse, just two fans won a lottery for the sole pair of seats available to the general public. One, photographer Samantha De Gosson, 38, told the Los Angeles Times, “I'm happy I can go in, but not looking forward about what's going to be said. This is a trial where Michael Jackson will be thrown under the bus by both parties. It's not really about justice. It's about who's going to make money.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home