Many San Diego wrongful death lawyers will be watching the legal battles of Dr. Conrad Murray, doctor of the late pop-star Michael Jackson, even more closely in the coming year. Dr. Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on November 7 in a criminal trial that caught the world’s attention. After hearing the verdict, the pop-star’s father, Joe Jackson, told waiting crowds, “There’s more.”
Two California wrongful death lawsuits have already been filed, one each by Mr. Jackson’s parents and also on behalf of his three children, against Dr. Murray and the company behind Michael Jackson’s final “This is It” tour, AEG Live LLC. On November 9, a Los Angeles judge ruled that the civil suits can move forward, so Dr. Murray’s court battles are by no means over. Under California tort law, a criminal verdict can be used as evidence in a civil trial. Also, the burden of proof in a civil trial is lower than in a criminal trial. A prosecutor has to show the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a difficult standard to meet. In a civil case, the plaintiff need only show responsibility by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which in layman’s terms means it is more than 50% likely that the defendant is responsible. Also, evidence laws are more lenient in civil cases than criminal, meaning that evidence excluded from the criminal trial may be used in the upcoming civil cases.
The end result of these actions is hard to guess at this point, even for San Diego medical malpractice lawyers. AEG’s responsibility will likely depend on the specific wording of the contracts involved and also the nature of the company’s ties to Dr. Murray. With the appeal of his criminal verdict pending, Dr. Murray may also wish to avoid further court battles and the accompanying media frenzy by settling the suit out of court. It is unclear at this point what kind of medical malpractice insurance he may have, as well.