Jackson's family seeks billions
Just before Monday's session began, the judge issued a series of rulings that will allow Jackson expert witnesses to testify but limit some of their opinions.
The lawsuit seeks a judgment against AEG Live equal to the money Jackson would have earned over the course of his remaining lifetime if he had not died in 2009. Jackson lawyers denied media reports that they were seeking $40 billion in damages if AEG Live is found liable, but it could cost the company several billion dollars, according to estimates of Jackson's income potential.
AEG Live is a subsidiary of AEG, a global entertainment company that was up for sale recently with an $8 billion asking price.
Palazuelos reversed an earlier tentative decision Monday that would have limited the amount of damages the Jacksons could argue AEG should pay if found liable in the singer's death. The decision raises the potential damages by about $1 billion.
One of the Jacksons' experts, certified pubic accountant Arthur Erk, estimated that Michael Jackson could have earned $1.4 billion by taking his "This Is It" tour around the world for 260 shows. AEG executives discussed extending the tour beyond the 50 shows scheduled for London, Jackson lawyers said.
Jackson lawyer Perry Sanders, in arguing for the judge to allow Erk's testimony, said when "This Is It" tickets went on sale in March 2009, there was the "highest demand to see anyone in the history of the world. No one has ever come close."
"There was so much demand, they filled 2 million seats in hours," Sanders said, quoting an e-mail from AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips sent to AEG's owner.
"We would have had to do 100-plus shows to fill the demand" in London, he said Phillips wrote. Jackson could have packed the Tokyo Dome several times in a world tour, he said.
But AEG lawyer Sabrina Strong called it "very speculative" that Jackson would have even finished the 50 London shows before dying.
AEG lawyers argued that Jackson didn't perform 260 shows and make that much money even in his prime. "He never came anywhere close to that," Strong said. "No one other than Cher has ever done that."
Erk also calculated Jackson would have followed with four more world tours before he turned 65.
Palazuelos weighed in during a hearing on Thursday, noting that the Rolling Stones are still touring into their 70s.
The Jacksons will also try to convince jurors that he would have made a fortune off of a long series of Las Vegas shows, endorsements, a clothing line and movies.
Strong argued that Jackson had a history of failed projects and missed opportunities, calling Erk's projections "a hope, a dream, and not a basis for damages."
Erk, under the new ruling, will be able to tell jurors about the "loss of earning capacity" suffered by the family because of Jackson's death. This means the jury can consider the Jackson argument that he could have earned millions with a clothing line, endorsements and movies. The expert's estimate that Jackson would have completed five world tours before he was 65, if he had lived, can also be considered.
AEG can argue, however, that Jackson's past failures diminished the potential earnings.
None of the Jackson experts can offer an opinion on the question of whether Murray was hired by AEG.
The witness lists include many members of the Jackson family, including Katherine Jackson. Other celebrity witnesses on the list are Sharon Osbourne, Quincy Jones, Spike Lee, Ray Parker Jr., Lisa Marie Presley, Diana Ross and Lou Ferrigno.