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Jackson verdict could shake up industry

A verdict in the wrongful death lawsuit is expected sometime next week

Brian Panish, attorney for the Jackson family, delivers his closing argument to jurors in a packed courtroom in downtown Los Angeles on September 24, 2013. Picture:AFP

LOS ANGELES - The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of late pop star Michael Jackson against his concert promoter is now in the hands of a jury and the verdict could have far-reaching implications for how the entertainment industry does business with its biggest stars.

The 21-week trial, which has opened a window into the private life and last days of the King of Pop, has not only put concert promoter AEG Live on trial but also the entertainment industry's live-performance business model, analysts say.

After closing arguments concluded on Thursday, the judge sent the jury to deliberate and a verdict is expected sometime next week, if not earlier.

Jackson family lawyers have suggested in court documents that damages could exceed $1 billion.

Currently, entertainment producers typically pay up-front sums running into millions of dollars to performers in exchange for being able to have greater control over some of the performers' affairs.

The lawsuit alleges that AEG came to control much of Jackson's life. The home Jackson lived in was provided by AEG; his finances were dependent on AEG, and his assets stood security if he failed to perform. Those assets included The Sony/ATV music catalogue owned by Jackson, which even includes iconic Beatles songs.

That kind of control is the crux of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, and his three children.

In the suit, Jackson's family alleges that AEG Live negligently hired cardiologist Conrad Murray as Jackson's personal physician and ignored signs that the singer was in poor health.

Jackson died in 2009 in Los Angeles at age 50 from an overdose of surgical anaesthetic propofol.

Murray, who was caring for Jackson as the singer rehearsed for his series of 50 comeback concerts, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for administering the propofol that killed the star.

AEG Live has argued that Jackson had prescription drug and addiction problems for years before entering into any agreement with the company.

It also has said that it did not hire or supervise Murray and could not have foreseen that the physician would have posed a danger to the singer.

"They (AEG Live) chose to run the risk and make a huge profit," Jackson family attorney Brian Panish said this week in his closing argument.