There sure has been a lot in the news lately about the Michael Jackson estate. So how can you use this to talk to your clients?
Concert promoter AEG is on the defensive after the Los Angeles Times recently published confidential emails about AEG's role in Michael Jackson's final days. The New York Daily News revealed more of the emails in a second article this weekend.
Together, the emails paint a picture of AEG demanding that the concert tour go on, despite knowing the extremely fragile state Michael Jackson was in at the time.
Katherine Jackson and other family members sued AEG, blaming them for controlling and failing to supervise Dr. Conrad Murray, thereby causing Jackson's death. AEG denies it controlled or supervised Murray at all. They say he was Jackson's personal physician and he alone was responsible.
Whether that's true or not, AEG was clearly involved in some manner. The Daily News revealed the most telling of the emails that have been publicly disclosed so far, about AEG's role in Jackson's final days:
Kenny Ortega sent a panicked email in the predawn hours of June 20, 2009, telling promoter Randy Phillips, the head of AEG Live, that Jackson appeared too "weak and fatigued" to rehearse the previous night, "trembling, rambling and obsessing" to the point Ortega recommended a psychological exam.
When Phillips didn't immediately address his fears, Ortega fired off another email 11 hours later, the Daily News has learned.
"I honestly felt if I had encouraged or allowed him on stage last night he could have hurt himself," Ortega wrote to Phillips in the confidential 1:20 p.m. missive obtained by The News.
Phillips responded within the hour, shooting down Ortega's concerns with even more force than formerly exposed. "It is critical that neither you, me, or anyone around this show become amateur psychiatrists or physicians," he wrote, adding that he was in touch with Jackson's personal doctor, Conrad Murray, and had gained "immense respect" for the cardiologist who would later go to jail for involuntary manslaughter.
Among those revealed by the Times include Phillips' accounts of Jackson as an "emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt." Yet he also wrote that if Jackson did not deliver, "financial disaster awaits."
AEG says the emails paint an incomplete picture and they are only a select few out of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents produced in the court case. The company's lawyers have actually gone on the offensive, attacking the Jackson family and blaming them for leaking these confidential emails to the media when court orders prohibited it.
Katherine Jackson and her legal team denied it. Instead, businessman Howard Mann - a business partner of Katherine Jackson - claimed responsibility for disclosing the emails to the media. He says he gathered them from a number of sources, including the Dr. Conrad Murray trial, not from Katherine Jackson.
AEG's legal team isn't buying that Mann is solely to blame. They claim he is nothing but an intermediary and the public revelation of the emails is a desperate reaction by the Jackson family to the realization that they are losing. AEG's attorney said, "After months of discovery, plaintiffs now know what we have known all along - there is nothing to support their claims."
The Jackson legal team disagrees. They claim to have even more damaging emails and feel very confident in their case against AEG.
Ultimately, the judge hearing the case will have to decide whether there is enough evidence to justify submitting the case to the jury. These emails would make for a very compelling case in front of a jury, but getting that far is the big question.
Knowing of Jackson's condition and encouraging him to perform is not the same as being legally responsible for his death. Plus, as AEG attorneys point out, Phillips and others involved observed Jackson giving strong rehearsal performances and were assured by Dr. Murray that he was able to perform. AEG says it never paid Dr. Murray and his contract was never signed before Jackson died.
Interesting stuff, but how does that relate to your clients? There's another angle to this story.
Where AEG is really in trouble is with the $17.5 million lawsuit by insurer Lloyds of London, which issued an insurance policy to protect AEG in case Jackson could not perform. AEG was worried about Jackson's ability to perform in concert, so it took out the policy to protect against that danger. Looks like a smart decision, right?
The problem is that Lloyds chose to sue rather than pay out on the policy. The famous insurer claims that AEG didn't fully disclose Jackson's medical condition in taking out the policy, and these emails certainly suggest that AEG knew more than it told Lloyds. While the emails might not cause them to lose the wrongful death case, it certainly makes it very difficult for the insurance lawsuit.
Too many clients applying for insurance don't stop to think of the ramifications of failing to disclose their medical problems. Those forms to be completed aren't there to annoy your clients -- they are important. Life insurance claims are rejected regularly when material medical information is missing or misleading - not just when the rich and famous are involved.
When that happens, the family is forced to sue to collect the insurance, which is often expensive and difficult.
Obviously insurance is an important part of everyone's financial plan. But it's a good reminder to your clients to be careful and make full disclosure, so their heirs don't have to face a lawsuit over an insurance claim when they pass.
By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of the national television special, Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update. You can "like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
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