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Conn. experts in Michael Jackson death trial

Jackson wrongful death case puts state experts in spotlight


By Frank Juliano

Michael Koskoff of the Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder legal firm in Bridgeport, Conn. has joined the Michael Jackson legal team.

BRIDGEPORT — The wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Michael Jackson will have two well-known local experts center stage when testimony resumes Tuesday.

Michael Koskoff, a partner in the Bridgeport-based law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, is on the Jackson family’s legal team and will be questioning a doctor from Westport, Dr. Sidney Schnoll, who is an expert on drug addictions.

Although they are both area residents and both have been brought into the case because of their expertise in medical malpractice and addiction, the two men had never met before they began work on the case.

“We looked around the country for the top specialists, like we always do, and it is a total coincidence that he happened to live in Westport,” Koskoff said Monday by telephone from Los Angeles.

The suit against entertainment giant Anschutz Entertainment Group and its concert promotion subsidiary, AEG Live, for the death of the pop icon is being heard in Los Angeles.

Koskoff expects to question Schnoll on Tuesday. The noted Bridgeport lawyer is working with a Los Angeles law firm, Panish, Shea & Boyle, in representing members of Jackson’s family, including his children Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, and Prince, as well as their legal guardian, grandmother Katherine Jackson (Michael’s mother). Jackson’s father, Joseph, is not represented in the suit.

AEG, a corporation that produces and promotes live entertainment, owns and operates concert venues, clubs, theaters, arenas and stadiums, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles where Michael Jackson had been rehearsing for his worldwide concert tour, “This Is It.”

The suit alleges that AEG had arranged to retain Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist, to serve as Jackson’s personal, on-call physician.

Murray, 58, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s death from a drug overdose. Prosecutors in the criminal case argued that Murray behaved recklessly by using a surgical anesthetic to treat the 50-year-old singer’s insomnia and was therefore criminally negligent in the performer’s death.

The defense has noted that Jackson himself had retained Murray as his personal physician at other times. Koskoff said the difference is that the concert promoter had hired Murray at a fee of $150,000 per month to care for Jackson before and during the tour.

“The hitch was that if the tour was postponed or canceled, the doctor would be out of a job,” the Bridgeport lawyer said. “That created a conflict of interest and a tremendous amount of pressure on (Murray),” Koskoff said.

Lawyers for the concert promoter have said that they did not hire Murray directly, and that the doctor was not under AEG’s control.

More than two years after Jackson died, Murray was sentenced to four years in county jail and was required to pay nominal fines as well.

The civil lawsuit filed by Katherine Jackson accuses AEG of negligence in retaining Murray and forcing Jackson to agree to be under his care or to risk having the tour canceled. The suit also alleges that AEG participated in allowing Murray to act without adhering to proper medical standards.

The promoter’s lawyers have argued that Jackson was addicted to drugs and so would have had a reduced life expectancy.

Schnoll is expected to address the effect of addiction on life expectancy in his testimony on Tuesday.

The Jackson family’s lawyers have not said how much they are seeking in damages. Koskoff said Monday only that it will be “a sizeable amount, given that Michael Jackson was one of the highest grossing performers in history, and even AEG says if the tour had gone forward it would have netted hundreds of millions.”