AEG lawyer testifies in Michael Jackson death trial

Updated 11:15 AM EDT, Wed August 7, 2013

Story highlights

Lawyer Kathy Jorrie negotiated and wrote the contract between AEG Live and Dr. Murray

Murray told Jorrie he was closing four profitable clinics to take the job as Jackson's doctor

An investigator testified Murray was $1 million in debt and his clinic faced eviction

Jackson lawsuit contends AEG Live failed to check Murray's background

(CNN) —  

Dr. Conrad Murray claimed he was giving up a $1-million-a-month medical practice to serve as Michael Jackson’s doctor, a lawyer testified Tuesday.

Kathy Jorrie, who negotiated and wrote the contract between AEG Live and Murray, was called as a witness in the wrongful death trial of the concert promoter.

Murray, who agreed to work as Jackson’s full-time physician for his comeback concerts for $150,000 a month, is serving a prison term for involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s drug overdose death.

Michael Jackson’s mother and three children are suing AEG Live, contending the concert promoter was liable in his death because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray.

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Murray told Jorrie during negotiations that he was closing down four medical clinics that were making $1 million each month to take the job, Jorrie testified.

Testimony in Murray’s criminal trial revealed he only operated two clinics – one in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the other in Houston, Texas.

A Los Angeles Police detective testified earlier in this civil trial that Murray was more than $1 million in debt and that his Las Vegas medical clinic faced eviction in the months before he was hired to treat Jackson.

Jackson lawyers argue AEG Live executives were negligent because they failed to check Murray’s background, which they contend would have revealed his debts and misrepresentations about his successful practices.

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AEG Live executives testified that they relied on assurances by Jackson that Murray was his “longtime personal doctor,” concluding that he was competent for the tour position.

A music industry veteran hired as an expert witness by Jackson lawyers testified earlier that AEG Live’s negotiations with Murray were “highly inappropriate.”

The agreement to pay Murray $150,000 a month set up an “egregious” conflict of interest in which the physician was beholden to the company and himself before Jackson’s interests, David Berman, who once headed Capitol Records and worked for decades as an entertainment lawyer, testified.

The contractual relationship between AEG Live and Murray was “not unlike the team doctor for a football team, where the quarterback is injured and the doctor comes to the medical conclusion that the quarterback should be taken out of the game for a period of weeks, but the team doesn’t want him out,” Berman said. “There is an inherent conflict.”

Bad news hurt Jackson’s earning potential

Berman, called as an expert witness on music industry contracts, also noted that the contract said AEG Live could terminate Murray if concerts were postponed or canceled.

“The fact that if the tour is even just postponed that AEG Live has the ability to cease any further compensation for Dr. Murray, giving Dr. Murray even greater conflict of interest since he was in financial dire straits. He did need this gig and if it was postponed, which could hypothetically be in the best interest of Michael Jackson, he ran the risk of losing any further compensation,” he testified.

Berman testified that AEG Live executives should have recognized there could be a problem with Murray when he initially asked for $5 million for one year as Jackson’s doctor. “That is a pretty bizarre amount,” he said.

The eventual agreement to pay the doctor $150,000 a month was still “an exorbitant amount, more than any other person on the tour was paid,” he said. “Even more of a red flag since AEG was aware of another doctor who was willing to take the job for $40,000 a month.”

Murray told investigators that he gave Jackson nightly infusions of the surgical anesthetic propofol for two months to treat his insomnia. The coroner ruled Jackson died from a propofol overdose on June 25, 2009.

The wrongful death trial, in its 15th week, is expected to continue into September.

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