How will Michael Jackson's death impact his legal problems?

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How will Michael Jackson's death impact his legal problems?

Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 05:50PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Jackson,michael2 Michael Jackson is dead at the age of 50.

The superstar singer will be remembered for a lot of things, from hit records to a galvanizing stage presence to his enormous personal troubles. But lately the King of Pop had become the King of Litigation, having been sued by royalty, veterinary hospitals, lawyers, "she's not my lover" Billie Jean, Wall Street, the family of somebody who died, Sotheby's auction house, the director of "Thriller," the actress who appeared in "Thriller," African singers, concert promoters, public relations help, and on and on and on...

So while Jackson has passed away, many of these cases are still living. What will happen to these lawsuits now?

We checked in with some litigators, including a few who had represented Jackson or handled lawsuits against him. (In this town, Jackson's legal contacts run deep.)

As with everyone who dies during litigation, Jackson's legal troubles may still survive the singer's passing. 

Plaintiffs still have the right to pursue their claims, and whether they choose to pursue them will largely depend on what's in dispute.

The least likely to remain active are the lawsuits that will be tough to prove without any direct witness examination of Jackson himself. This runs the gamut from personal injury complaints at Jackson's old "Neverland" estate to copyright infringement allegations to the lawsuit filed just two days ago concerning the planned Michael Jackson reunion tour.

That said, we'll probably continue to read about the cases involving collections on Jackson's massive debts. His estate will become the nominal defendant in such actions, which will largely depend on auditing of financial books and old contracts rather than any eyewitness testimony. (Assuming, of course, that these lawsuits don't claim any oral promises.)

Interestingly, Jackson's reunion tour held the prospect of garnering hundreds of millions of dollars that may have gone a long way to repaying Jackson's debt. Now, of course, the stakeholders in that tour could initiate additional lawsuits trying to recoup their investments. 

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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