An ongoing theme of our blog is the importance of email threads and email chains for plaintiffs’ eDiscovery in civil litigation. Rarely does the topic get much major news coverage, but multiple news outlets have reported that emails disclosed in the Michael Jackson wrongful death case may greatly bolster the plaintiffs’ case.
The plaintiffs are Jackson’s mother and his children against defendant AEG Live, the concert promoter that was in charge of the late pop star’s last tour, “This Is It.” The tour never occurred, as Jackson died before the first concert. Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was convicted of criminal negligent homicide for his death. The plaintiffs alleged that AEG employed Murray and was negligent in its investigation, hiring and supervision of him, which was a proximate cause of Jackson’s death.
However, the defendants claimed they did not employ Dr. Murray. That story might have closed the case, but damaging emails were uncovered in response to the plaintiff electronic discovery requests. The claim that AEG did not employ Murray was belied by an email from an AEG executive that stated, “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.” Dr. Murray reportedly had debt problems, and the plaintiffs allege the defendants used the threat of firing him and his $150,000 salary to keep the doctor working for their benefit, not Jackson’s. Other emails evidenced the concert director’s concern over Jackson’s ill health, but the main concern of AEG executives was to make sure Jackson showed up for all rehearsals.
Prior to this hearing, the judge had dismissed four of the five counts contained in the lawsuit; however, the judge allowed one of plaintiffs’ claims to move forward based on the email evidence. “There is a triable issue of fact as to whether it was foreseeable that such a physician under strong financial pressure may compromise his Hippocratic Oath and do what was known by AEG Live’s executives to be an unfortunate practice in the entertainment industry for financial gain,” wrote Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos.
Plaintiffs are seeking the projected income that Jackson would have earned if not for his tragic death, which could potentially be in the billions of dollars. The civil trial is set to start on April 2.