With his sold-out concert series only four weeks away and a sickly Michael Jackson missing yet another rehearsal, the promoter gave the star an ultimatum: Start taking drugs from a new doctor to keep you going, or we’ll sue you for millions.
This dose of “tough love” administered at Jackson’s house is alleged in a lawsuit filed this week that provides a new account of the days before Jackson died from a dose of a powerful anesthesia.
In the suit by Jackson’s mother Katherine and his children, Jackson is not portrayed as the rejuvenated King of Pop on the comeback trail, as seen in the movie This Is It, but as a tired, drug-addled 50-year-old barely able to rehearse – much less embark on a high-stakes concert series.
To protect its huge investment and the potential for even bigger profits, the lawsuit alleges, promoter AEG Live drove the entertainer – once so out of it that he was disoriented and shivering in a hot arena – into a premature death through the poor medical care from the physician hired by the promoter: Dr. Conrad Murray.
Promoter Denies Allegations
An AEG spokesman would only say that the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit “is inaccurate, unsubstantiated and meritless. Dr. Murray was Mr. Jackson’s longtime personal physician. AEG did not choose him, hire him or supervise him.”
The lawsuit, which alleges breach of contract, negligence and fraud, provides a detailed narrative of what it claims were AEG’s heavy-handed tactics in the weeks prior to Jackson’s U.K. concerts, when Jackson was faltering during rehearsals.
According to the suit, the promoters went to Jackson’s Los Angeles house on June 18, 2009, and insisted he stop seeing his personal physician, Dr. Arnold Klein, and stop taking Klein’s medications, because they “made him sleepy and prevented him from rehearsing,” says the legal papers.
“Tough love,” the promoters allegedly called it: Just take the drugs from Dr. Murray and don’t miss another rehearsal, the promoters allegedly said, or we’ll call off the tour and sue you.
“Rather than act reasonably and relax the rehearsal schedule to Michael Jackson could recuperate from his physical problems, AEG insisted that he attend every rehearsal in a grueling schedule,” according to the lawsuit.
Differing Accounts of Jackson’s Health
A month earlier, the suit also says, AEG had contracted Murray, a Las Vegas cardiologist, to be Jackson’s “personal concierge physician.” For $150,000 a month and a rental house near the London concert venue, Murray would make sure Jackson got the sleep he needed and that he made every rehearsal.
Only Jackson’s health worsened, the lawsuit says, as Murray pumped him full of such sedatives as Valium, Ativan, Versed and the drug Propofol, an anesthetic for minor surgeries. Under his contract, Murray was also supposed to receive from AEG a nurse and CPR equipment, but these were never furnished, the lawsuit says.
At 9:30 p.m. on June 18, hours after the “riot act meeting,” Jackson showed up at rehearsal “visibly shaken” and “not himself that day,” the lawsuit says. At home that night, Murray administered the usual sedative cocktail, including Propofol, still without the resuscitation equipment and nursing support.
Back at rehearsal the next day, “Jackson was upset, not coherent, and seemed drugged and disoriented,” the lawsuit says.
‘Had to Have a Heater’
After a Father’s Day weekend break, Jackson returned to rehearsal on June 23 “freezing cold,” the lawsuit says. “His assistants had to give him several shirts to wear under his long, heavy coat. Although it was warm in Staples Center that day, and although the rehearsal was vigorous, Jackson had to have a heater.”
The lawsuit says: “AEG was well aware of his condition but did not postpone any rehearsals, nor did AEG relent in its demands that Jackson continue to maintain the grueling rehearsal schedule.”
The suit says Jackson was in bad shape on June 24, too, shivering and seeming disoriented. This is in stark contrast to the picture of Jackson painted by other witnesses, who said he seemed enthused and healthy that night as he ran through classics like “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Billie Jean,” “Smooth Criminal” and “She’s Out of My Life.” He and his dancers also performed “Thriller” in full costume. They worked until midnight.
According to various accounts, Jackson arrived home fatigued but had trouble sleeping that night. Murray has told police that he gave into Jackson’s demands at 10:40 p.m. on the morning of the 25th, pushing 25 milligrams of Propofol into the IV. Soon, Jackson stopped breathing. Murray, still without the heart resuscitation machine he was supposed to get, was unable to save Jackson’s life.
The coroner conducted an autopsy the following day and concluded that Jackson died from acute Propofol intoxication and that he had a “polypharmacy” of drugs in his system.
Charles Peckham, a civil attorney for Murray, declined to discuss the case in detail, citing civil and criminal litigation. The doctor has been sued by Jackson’s father, Joe. Katherine’s attorneys may go after him as well. Murray also is awaiting preliminary hearing on an involuntary manslaughter charge brought by the Los Angeles DA.
“Dr. Murray has a great deal of respect for Katherine Jackson and for Michael Jackson’s children and wants to give them all the peace that they deserve as they grieve the loss of their son and their father,” Peckham says. “But for Dr. Murray, it’s just another day and another lawsuit.”