An attorney for Michael Jackson’s mother says she is considering a wrongful death lawsuit because of the circumstances surrounding her son’s demise, and that the singer’s personal physician is a likely target.
The idea is still nascent and Dr. Conrad Murray is the main name that’s been mentioned, attorney Burt Levitch said Monday, following a court hearing where a judge approved a merchandising deal that will benefit the King of Pop’s estate.
“The possibility of a wrongful death action has been floated,” Levitch said. “In that regard, no decision has been finalized … Dr. Murray’s name has been floated because he is under investigation.”
Authorities investigating Jackson’s June 25 death have been focusing on Murray, who they believe administered a powerful anesthetic to the pop singer the day he died. Levitch wouldn’t say whether concert promoter AEG might also be a defendant.
“It’s fairly obvious from press accounts that AEG had a very active role in Michael’s life for the last six months,” Levitch said. “They paid for his home and for Dr. Conrad Murray.”
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any potential litigation,” said AEG spokesman Michael Roth.
Miranda Sevcik, a publicist for Murray attorney Edward Chernoff, said she had seen the press conference with Levitch, but that doesn’t mean a lawsuit “is imminent.”
“Whether or not the Jackson family decides to proceed with a civil suit is up to them,” she said in an email.
Earlier in the day, a judge signed off on a deal that would soon bring official Michael Jackson merchandise to store shelves, but the fate of a proposed tour of the King of Pop’s memorabilia remained in limbo after the singer’s mother expressed renewed concerns.
Attorneys for Katherine Jackson withdrew their objections to an agreement with merchandiser Bravado to bring everything from Jackson trading cards, apparel and cell phone themes to consumers.
But her objections remain a roadblock to a deal that would put some of her son’s prized items on display later this year. That tour was intended to coincide with the release of a major movie featuring his final rehearsals for a series of London shows.
Levitch said Mrs. Jackson’s primary objection is that it was not open to competitive bidding by companies other than AEG. He also said he believed the deal that was negotiated, which would provide a 50-50 split between AEG and the estate, was insufficient.
He also said that Mrs. Jackson has recently reasserted her desire to either be named a co-executor or have a member of the family, designated by her, as an executor. Jackson’s will named longtime attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain as the sole executors of his estate, with Katherine Jackson, the singer’s children and unnamed charities as beneficiaries.
“No one has reflected on what it takes to nurture an estate and no one is a better position than Katherine Jackson or her designees to do that,” Levitch said. “Rather than trying to derail this estate, we would like to take our place at the table.”
Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Branca and McClain, said outside court: “I’m not sure why the objections are being made” but said Mrs. Jackson certainly has the right to make them.
“Katherine Jackson is a beneficiary. She’s entitled to object to deals that may impact her and the children,” Weitzman said.
Attorneys for AEG and the current administrators of Jackson’s estate wanted the memorabilia tour approved Monday, but Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff instead scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Friday to determine if the deal represented the best arrangement for Jackson’s estate.
The deal is expected to generate up to $6 million for the estate, said Weitzman. One of the concessions Katherine Jackson is apparently seeking is the authority to sign off on the deal.
Beckloff said he was inclined to reject that argument, but wasn’t sure that he could grant the estate’s administrators approval to enter into the deal without hearing more information.
AEG attorney Kathy Jorrie stressed outside court that the clock is ticking on the deal and it must be approved on Friday to remain viable. The exhibit, would be organized by Arts and Exhibitors International, an AEG owned company which has also staged such traveling shows as the King Tut exhibit and the exhibit of Princess Diana’s possessions.
“We think it’s the best deal the co-special administrators could negotiate,” Jorrie said outside of court. “We don’t believe the objections by Katherine Jackson are meritorious.”