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Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Verdict: AEG Not Liable

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By Betty Wang, JD on October 03, 2013 11:51 AM

The long-awaited verdict for the Michael Jackson wrongful death lawsuit is out, and Jackson fans are understandably heartbroken. A Los Angeles jury, in a unanimous verdict, has cleared AEG of all liability, Reuters reports.

The former King of Pop's mother, Katherine, 83, and three of Jackson's children had sued concert promoter AEG Live over Jackson's death back in 2009 from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol. Jackson was 50 when he died.

What was Jackson's family claiming in the lawsuit, exactly?

Jackson's Physician Not Unfit or Incompetent

Jackson's family had alleged that AEG Live negligently hired Conrad Murray, Jackson's personal physician. They claimed that he was not competent enough to handle taking care of Jackson and ultimately was responsible for Jackson's death when he gave him the fatal dose of propofol. Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and then convicted in 2011, and will now soon be released from jail, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The wrongful death case ultimately turned on the question of whether the jury believed Murray was unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired, which the jury unanimously concluded that he wasn't. Jury foreman, Gregg Barden, explains to the LA Times, "Conrad Murray had a license; he graduated from an accredited college." Though, he also added, "[i]t doesn't mean we thought he was ethical."

Wrongful Death and Negligent Hiring

A wrongful death suit is usually brought by the surviving members of the victim's family, alleging the victim died due to the negligence or misconduct of another. The party found liable for wrongful death may not necessarily be directly associated with the actual crime or accident that caused the death.

In this case, Jackson's family was alleging that AEG had negligently hired Murray, who ultimately was responsible for Jackson's death. Negligent hiring typically arises when an employer hires an employee carelessly -- without performing a background check, for example.

It's important to note that, in this case, the jurors actually did believe that it was AEG Live, and not Jackson, who ultimately hired Murray, the LA Times reports. However, because they also came to the unanimous conclusion that Murray wasn't unfit or incompetent, the hiring was not deemed negligent.

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