The promoter of Michael Jackson's ill-fated series of comeback shows created a conflict of interest with the singer's physician when it negotiated terms of his deal, an expert testifying for the superstar's mother has told a jury.
David Berman told jurors hearing a negligent hiring lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live that the company should not have negotiated with Jackson's doctor without notifying the singer's representatives.
The former head of Capitol Records and holder of high-level positions at several other record companies is being paid to testify for Katherine Jackson in her legal case against the concert company.
Asked whether it was appropriate for AEG Live to attempt to hire a doctor on Jackson's behalf, Mr Berman responded: "I believe that it's highly inappropriate. It is highly unusual." A more appropriate relationship would have been for Jackson to hire cardiologist Conrad Murray without any involvement from AEG Live, Mr Berman said. Based on draft contracts and emails between company executives, he said he believed AEG Live thought it controlled the doctor.
Mr Berman retired from the music industry in 2001 to become an expert witness for music industry-related lawsuits. He said he had never heard of a situation in which a tour promoter hired a doctor on behalf of an artist. He began working in the music business in 1969 as a transactional attorney before making the leap to record executive, working with acts such as the Eagles, Van Halen, the Beach Boys, the Doors and numerous other big-name acts.
He said he believed music companies owe a higher obligation to artists than to music buyers or concert goers and, in this instance, AEG failed Jackson. He was shown emails in which a tour accountant traded emails with Murray without including any of the singer's representatives.
To prepare for his testimony, Mr Berman said he had reviewed numerous documents, including 26 depositions and testimony from AEG executives during the trial, which is now in its eighth week. He said he is being 500 dollars an hour for his work on the case.
Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011, was never paid his 150,000 dollars per month fee for working with Jackson. The superstar died from an overdose of the anaesthetic propofol before signing Murray's contract.
AEG denies it hired Murray. The company's executives and lawyers have said the company was merely advancing Jackson the money to pay Murray, and a valid contract never existed. Its executives also have said it agreed to pay Murray's salary only because Jackson insisted on him coming on tour. The company's lawyers have yet to question Mr Berman but already have objected to his expertise. An AEG Live defence lawyer has noted that Mr Berman was never a tour producer or promoter - functions that AEG Live was serving as during preparations for Jackson's comeback shows.
Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos reminded jurors that they will ultimately decide whether AEG Live hired Murray.