A wrongful death lawsuit is a certainty now. In a previous article about the Michael Jackson Estate, I wrote how a wrongful death lawsuit was likely due to the unusual circumstances surrounding his death. Now, the Los Angeles County coroner reportedly determined that Jackson died through a homicide. This doesn't automatically mean it was a criminal act. Officially, it means he died at the hands of another.
But let's put semantics aside. Everyone expects that criminal charges will follow. Dr. Conrad Murray, the Las Vegas cardiologist who treated Jackson, is under investigation for manslaughter because he administered the lethal dose of drugs to the King of Pop to help his sleep. Here is the Associated Press article about the investigation and coroner's report.
Rumors started before this that the Jackson family wanted to bring a wrongful death claim. With this new report, you can bank on it happening.
As in most states, California wrongful death claims are brought by either the personal representatives of the estate or by the heirs entitled to damages. Those heirs include, in this case, the children as well as Jackson's parents -- but only if the parents (one or both) were financially dependent on him. It's been widely reported that Katherine Jackson was supported by her son, so she seems the most likely candidate to bring the claim for herself and the three children. She has already been appointed as their guardian.
The wrongful death damages available under California law include the financial support that Jackson would have contributed to the heirs (certainly a lot in this case), as well as compensation for the loss of love, society, companionship, protection, and affection, among certain other items. The family is not entitled to recover for emotional loss like grief or sorrow, but the other claims will be substantial enough. Punitive damages (for punishment) are also possible.
Katherine Jackson will be smart to seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney who also deals with probate issues, because maneuvering claims of this nature through the court system can be tricky without a good lawyer. In Michigan, for example, such a claim would require a court hearing in probate court or circuit court, depending on whether a lawsuit was started, and when and how a settlement occurs.
It's serious business for anyone who suffers a tragedy like the children and other loved ones who survived Michael Jackson. While personal injury attorneys often suffer a bad reputation, the truth is there are many, many quality people who practice law in this area because they enjoy helping people. And for people who have been injured or survived the unexpected death of a loved one caused by negligence, a good personal injury attorney can be a lifesaver.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at awmayoras @ brmmlaw.com.Follow us on Google+