By Django Gold
Law360, New York (November 14, 2012, 3:17 PM ET) -- Michael Jackson's former personal assistant brought a $7.5 million contract breach class action Friday against the concert promoter that hired Conrad Murray as the deceased singer's personal physician, saying AEG Live LLC's conduct led to Jackson's death and concert production staff members' economic loss.
Michael Amir Williams, who was Jackson's personal assistant at the time of his death in June 2009, alleges that AEG violated the terms of the contract related to Jackson's “This Is It” concert tour by ignoring Murray's qualifications in favor of the cost benefits he could bring to the tour, and by hiring the doctor, who last year was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly administering the drugs that led to Jackson's fatal overdose.
“After [the] contract was signed and performance had begun, Michael Jackson had problems keeping up with the pace of [the] tour's rigorous schedule and physical demands,” the complaint said. “In response, AEG began a series of unreasonable acts and omissions. These acts and omissions brought about the demise of Michael Jackson.”
“Within its roles … AEG breached [the] contract through acts or omissions that include but are not limited to interfering with Michael Jackson's preparation and eventual first class performance on tour, unreasonably abusing its discretionary power under contract and in its due diligence in the … hiring, creation of incentives, management and supervision of Conrad Murray,” the suit said.
According to the complaint, months before Jackson's death, the pop icon in January 2009 entered into a contract agreement with AEG setting out the terms for the upcoming tour, which was to have taken place exclusively at the O2 Arena in London in 2009 and 2010. The first show was scheduled for July 13, 2009, weeks after Jackson's demise.
Williams asserts the terms of the contract granted third party beneficiary status to the concert's production staff — the proposed class — and that “Michael Jackson bargained for the benefits class received from AEG, Michael Jackson intended that the class benefit from contract and [the] contract expressly names class and details the consideration class received and was to receive.”
Under the terms of the contract, this staff was to receive up to $7.5 million from AEG, with any payment over that amount to be furnished by Jackson himself, according to the complaint.
Williams' suit alleges four separate causes of action — for breach of express and implied terms of contract and breaches of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing — against AEG, billed in the complaint as the promoter, designer, producer and manager of the tour.
“Within these separate roles, AEG was obligated to use commercially [reasonable] standards in [the] contract's performance, commercially reasonable standards in maximizing net pool revenue and commercially reasonable standards in minimizing costs,” Williams said.
“AEG failed to exercise the sole discretion over the monetary artist advances honestly, in good faith and in accordance with fair dealing when instead of primarily focusing on Conrad Murray's qualifications, experience and medical specialty, in respect to Michael Jackson's health needs, AEG ignored Conrad Murray's qualifications, experience and medical specialty and focused on cost and the benefits Conrad Murray could bring AEG,” the complaint said.
When reached for comment Wednesday, plaintiffs' counsel Fletcher Bernard Brown told Law360, "I think everyone all over the world who followed the Conrad Murray [criminal] trial realized that AEG’s hands were dirty from their actions and omissions."
"I can remember countless times when the prosecutor in the trial objected to keep Dr. Murray’s attorneys from shifting the blame on to AEG, and that legal strategy of the prosecutor was the correct one at the time and it worked," Brown said. "An unintended consequence of that strategy protected AEG’s executives from criminal liability and from AEG thinking they incurred no civil liability at all. AEG is wrong and they clearly breached the contract in numerous ways. We will be ready and this time AEG is on trial."
A representative for AEG was not immediately available for comment.
Williams is represented by Fletcher Bernard Brown.
Counsel information for AEG was not immediately available.
The case is Michael Amir Williams et al. v. AEG Live LLC et al., case number BC495508, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
--Editing by Eydie Cubarrubia.