LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury should decide whether the promoter of Michael Jackson's final concerts negligently hired and supervised the physician convicted of causing the singer's death, a judge tentatively ruled Monday.
If the ruling stands, it will allow the case by Jackson's mother, Katherine, to go forward and present the theory that concert giant AEG Live controlled the physician who gave the superstar a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol.
Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos' tentative ruling however eliminates some of Katherine Jackson's claims and an attorney for AEG predicted the company would win at trial.
It is unclear when the ruling will be finalized, or whether the judge will change it. She heard two hours of arguments about the case on Monday but didn't indicate whether her mind had been changed.
AEG attorney Marvin Putnam said he was pleased with the ruling and reiterated his belief that the case should have never been filed.
The case centers on whether AEG did an appropriate investigation of Conrad Murray, a former cardiologist who is serving his sentence after being convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of the pop singer. The case also involves whether AEG controlled him while Jackson prepared for a series of comeback concerts.
Katherine Jackson's attorney, Kevin Boyle, declined comment after the hearing, saying he wanted to see the final order.
He told Palazuelos that AEG created a division of loyalties for Murray between his care of Jackson and maintaining an arrangement that would have paid him $150,000 a month to care for the singer.
Jackson died before Murray's contract was signed, and AEG argues he was not an employee of the company.
"AEG just made this more risky for Michael," Boyle argued Monday.
He said the case was unique and it should proceed intact with claims that AEG is liable for Murray's actions. "This has never happened before, or at least no one's been caught," Boyle said.
Putnam argued that by the time it was negotiating Murray's contract to treat Jackson while performing a series of London concerts, the doctor had already been treating the singer for some time, had relocated from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and had ordered large amounts of propofol to help Jackson sleep.
"Sadly, it appears that Michael Jackson's death would have occurred anyway," Putnam said after the hearing.
Katherine Jackson sued in September 2010 and a trial has been scheduled for early April.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP