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Michael Jackson wrongful-death trial: Phillips, Gongaware dismissed

Paul Gongaware

September 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two AEG Live executives were dismissed from the Michael Jackson wrongful-death lawsuit Monday by the judge.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos said evidence did not show that AEG Live CEO Randy Phillps and promoter Paul Gongaware were responsible for singer Michael Jackson's death. She said the two men were not liable in the case. The ruling was granted in response to a defense motion.

The case will proceed against AEG Live LLC.

The judge is allowing jurors to decide whether AEG Live hired Conrad Murray, a former cardiologist convicted of giving Jackson a lethal overdose of propfol in June 2009. AEG Live denies wrongdoing.

AEG Live LLC was the concert promoter for a series of worldwide performances to be given by Jackson.

Katherine Jackson, Jackson's mother, sued AEG Live in 2010, claiming the company hired Murray.

During the trial, Katherine Jackson's lawyers attacked the actions of Gongaware and Phillips in the months before the death. They claimed the executives missed warning signs about the superstar's health and created a conflict of interest for his physician.

Phillips and Gongaware denied they did anything wrong when they testified early in the case.

AEG Live lawyers argued the Jackson family matriarch had failed to prove that the company hired Murray or that its executives could have foreseen that the doctor was giving the entertainer treatments that would lead to his death.

The company is expected to conclude its defense next week. Lawyers for Jackson's mother say they plan to call several rebuttal witnesses.

Opening statements in the case were April 29 and jurors have heard from more than 50 witnesses in 20 weeks. Key witnesses have included Jackson's mother, his oldest son, his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, and several top AEG Live executives.

The company's lawyers have shown the jury testimony from several of Jackson's doctors, who described close relationships with the singer and their occasional misgivings about whether he was shopping for doctors or had grown dependent on prescription medications.

"I really think it would be inappropriate here for this to go to a jury," AEG Live defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam argued Monday.

An attorney for Katherine Jackson, countered that evidence in the case supported the family's position that AEG is responsible for Michael Jackson's death. They claim AEG Live created a conflict of interest in Murray's care of Jackson by agreeing to pay him $150,000 a month to work as a tour physician.

The trial dates planned for this week have been cancelled. The jury will not be coming in until next Monday because juror number 1 has a family emergency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.