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“What was this doctor planning to do?”: Jacksons v AEG Update

By | Published on Wednesday 8 May 2013

Michael Jackson

It was back to red flags at the ongoing Jacksons v AEG Live court case yesterday, with a medical expert called by the Jackson family listing the reasons why AEG should have been concerned about the appointment of Conrad Murray as the personal medic of Michael Jackson as work on the ‘This Is It’ venture got under way in 2009.

Murray, of course, was subsequently convicted of involuntary manslaughter for causing Jackson’s death through negligent treatment. In the current civil case, the Jacksons are trying to prove that AEG should be liable for Murray’s actions as his employer, though the live giant and ‘This Is It’ promoter says they didn’t recruit the doctor or manage him day to day.

But, said Dr Daniel Wohlgelernter in court yesterday, the live firm should never have agreed to pay Murray’s bills without investigating the medic’s background, and had they various red flags should have emerged.

Not least, Wohlgelernter said, the fact that Murray was primarily a cardiologist, and Jackson had no history of heart problems. Yet Murray gladly shut down his own cardiology practice to take on the Jackson job. Why, said the witness, according to the LA Times, would Murray “leave what he was doing for a patient who doesn’t need his services?”

Other things that should have concerned AEG as Murray’s paymasters, Wohlgelernter said, was the doctor’s request for a CPR machine, written into his contract. This is technology usually used in surgery. “What is this doctor planning to do?” Wohlgelernter asked the court. “What are his treatment plans in taking care of Michael Jackson?”

And while AEG is keen to stress in this case that it had no role in appointing Murray, Wohlgelernter’s testimony yesterday proposed that this in itself was negligent, especially given Jackson’s known issues with prescription drugs. Why did no one at AEG question why Jackson was so keen to hire this expensive doctor with irrelevant specialisms?

Or in Wohlgelernter’s words: “It’s a red flag that Michael Jackson has a history of substance abuse and addiction [and] he specifically is requesting a given doctor who has no training in any of those areas. What is the nature of this relationship? Why do these two want each other?”

The medical expert – who was paid $4700 to provide his expertise in court – also questioned a line in Murray’s contract which said that the doctor was to “perform the services reasonably requested by the producer”. That gave the producer, ie AEG, an unusual power over the doctor that could lead to a conflict of interest as someone whose primary concern should be the welfare of his patient.

Murray’s significant financial problems prior to his work on the ‘This Is It’ tour were already raised last week as a cause for concern, in that the doctor needed the highly paid job as Jackson’s personal medic so much, that could have arguably clouded his judgement regards requests and instructions from either AEG management or Jackson himself, when he should have been primarily acting according to medical best practice.

AEG is sure to counter Wohlgelernter’s testimonies by pointing out that Jackson’s doctor-patient relationship with Murray stretched back as far back as 2006, so he wasn’t being presented as a new medic out of the blue at the start of the ‘This Is It’ project. Murray’s past experience treating Jackson was sufficient to overcome any other possible concerns, the company might add.

The case continues.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Jackson news, new allegations of child abuse have emerged against the singer, echoing those that haunted the star while he was alive. According to TMZ, choreographer Wade Robson has filed a claim against the Jackson estate related to allegations the singer molested him as a child.

Robson first met Jackson aged five and spent time at the singer’s homes, including the Neverland ranch, until his early teens. The specific claims in the new lawsuit, which are unknown because the legal papers have been sealed, will presumably conflict with a testimony the dance man gave during the 2005 court case in which Jackson successfully defeated other allegations of abusing a child. In that case a former housekeeper of Jackson’s claimed she had seen the singer showering with Robson when he was eight or nine years old, but Robson himself insisted nothing untoward ever occurred.

Responding to the new legal claim, the lawyer of the Michael Jackson Estate, Howard Weitzman, told TMZ: “Mr Robson’s claim is outrageous and pathetic. This is a young man who has testified at least twice under oath over the past 20 years and said in numerous interviews that Michael Jackson never did anything inappropriate to him or with him. Now, nearly four years after Michael has passed, this sad and less than credible claim has been made. We are confident that the court will see this for what it is”.