Jackson v. AEG Live, LLC, B252411

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtKRIEGLER, J.
Docket NumberB252411
PartiesKatherine JACKSON, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. AEG LIVE, LLC et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Decision Date30 January 2015

233 Cal.App.4th 1156
183 Cal.Rptr.3d 394

Katherine JACKSON, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
AEG LIVE, LLC et al., Defendants and Respondents.

B252411

Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 5, California.

Filed January 30, 2015


Reed Smith, San Diego, Margaret M. Grignon, Zareh A. Jaltorossian, Paula M. Mitchell ; Panish Shea & Boyle, Brian J. Panish, Kevin R. Boyle, Robert S. Glassman, Los Angeles, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

O'Melveny & Myers, Marvin S. Putnam, Jessica Stebbins Bina, Los Angeles, for Defendants and Respondents.

Opinion

KRIEGLER, J.

233 Cal.App.4th 1161

Plaintiff Katherine Jackson, on behalf of herself and as guardian ad litem of Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris–Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II (collectively, the “Jacksons”), appeals from a judgment in favor of defendants AEG Live, LLC, AEG Live Productions, LLC, Brandon Phillips, and Paul Gongaware (collectively, “AEG”) in this negligence action in connection with Michael Jackson's (“Michael”) death. AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray as Michael's personal physician for a concert tour. Michael died of acute propofol intoxication while under Dr. Murray's care. The Jacksons filed this action seeking to hold AEG liable on theories of negligence. The trial court summarily adjudicated causes of action for negligence and respondeat superior. The sole cause of action at trial was for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision. The jury found AEG hired Dr. Murray, however, he was not unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired.

On appeal, the Jacksons contend that the trial court erred by granting summary adjudication, because: (1) triable issues of fact exist as to whether AEG was negligent, because AEG's conduct created an increased risk of harm to Michael, AEG voluntarily undertook to provide protective services to Michael, and AEG had a duty arising by contract; and (2) triable issues of fact exist as to respondeat superior, because Dr. Murray was an employee of AEG, agent of AEG, or an independent contractor whose work presented a peculiar risk of harm. The Jacksons further contend the court erred by modifying the jury instruction and special verdict form on the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision claim because the instruction and verdict only address hiring, but not retention or supervision. Lastly, they contend the special verdict was legally insufficient to support the judgment. We conclude that the trial court did not err in summarily adjudicating negligence because AEG did not owe Michael a duty to refrain from exerting pressure over Dr. Murray, AEG did not undertake to provide protective services to Michael, and AEG owed Michael no duty arising out of the contract with Dr. Murray. The court also did not err in summarily adjudicating respondeat superior

233 Cal.App.4th 1162

because the undisputed facts establish that Dr. Murray was an independent contractor as a matter of law, AEG is not liable under the peculiar risk doctrine as an independent contractor, and Dr.

183 Cal.Rptr.3d 400

Murray is not an agent of AEG. Furthermore, the trial court did not err in instructing the jurors with a modified jury instruction along with the special verdict form. Finally, we hold that the special verdict was legally sufficient. We affirm.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 15, 2010, the Jacksons filed a complaint against AEG and other defendants alleging causes of action including (1) negligence,1 (2) negligent hiring, training, and supervision, and (3) respondeat superior. On November 18, 2011, the Jacksons amended the original complaint by adding AEG Live Productions, LLC as a named defendant.2 On March 8, 2012, the court also sustained defendant AEG Live Productions's demurrer to the complaint with leave to amend. On March 26, 2012, the Jacksons filed their amended complaint against AEG and other defendants alleging the same causes of action.3

AEG's Motion for Summary Judgment or in the Alternative, Summary Adjudication

On November 30, 2012, AEG brought a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication on the causes of action for negligence, negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, and respondeat superior liability. As to the negligence claim, AEG argued that it did not assume a duty, under either the special relationship or negligent undertaking doctrines, to affirmatively protect Michael from Dr. Murray. AEG was not in a special relationship with Michael and the special relationship alleged by the Jacksons has no factual or legal support. The doctrine of negligent undertaking does not apply because the alleged undertaking is too broad and unsupported by the facts. The claim for negligent undertaking fails because there was no reliance on the undertaking or increased risk of harm. Moreover, the lack of foreseeability further dictates a finding of no duty. As to the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision claim, AEG contended it never hired, trained or supervised Dr. Murray, and AEG could not foresee the risk posed by the doctor. As to respondeat superior liability, AEG argued that Dr. Murray was

233 Cal.App.4th 1163

not an employee because no agreement between AEG and Dr. Murray had been executed. And even if an agreement was executed, Dr. Murray was an independent contractor and AEG was therefore not liable.

Defendant Anschutz Entertainment Group and defendant Tim Leiweke moved concurrently for summary judgment in a separate motion based on grounds unique to them, however, they also incorporated by reference AEG's motion for summary judgment.

The Jacksons' Opposition

On February 11, 2013, the Jacksons filed an opposition to AEG's motion for summary judgment, arguing there were triable issues of fact. As to the negligence claim, the Jacksons contended there were facts that there was a special relationship between AEG and Michael because AEG

183 Cal.Rptr.3d 401

controlled his finances and medical care and because Michael was particularly vulnerable. There was evidence that AEG undertook Michael's general medical care and specifically the provision of an assistant to Dr. Murray, and negligently performed those tasks. There are facts that AEG created an undue risk of harm to Michael, and foreseeability is a question for the jury. As to the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision claim, the Jacksons argued that there were triable issues of fact as to whether AEG negligently hired Dr. Murray because they had an oral or implied-in-fact agreement with Dr. Murray and should have foreseen the particular risks posed by him. As to respondeat superior liability, the Jacksons further argued that there were triable issues of fact that Dr. Murray was an employee, not an independent contractor. Even if Dr. Murray was an independent contractor as a matter of law, AEG is liable for his negligent conduct because the medical services performed by Dr. Murray are inherently dangerous or involve a peculiar risk.

AEG's Reply

In its reply filed February 20, 2013, AEG argued that the opposition failed to establish any disputed issues of material fact and is based on inadmissible evidence. AEG contended that there was no special relationship because business dealings cannot establish such a relationship and the Jacksons admitted that Michael continued to see other doctors. AEG also stated that there was no evidence establishing Michael detrimentally relied on the special relationship. AEG further argued that the evidence established that AEG did not undertake to provide a medical assistant to Dr. Murray in Los Angeles. AEG reiterated that it did not hire Dr. Murray and could not foresee the danger he posed. Finally, AEG contended that it did not control the manner or means of Dr. Murray's work and that all applicable factors show that Dr. Murray was an independent contractor. The Jacksons' contention that

233 Cal.App.4th 1164

Dr. Murray's work as a physician was inherently dangerous or involved a peculiar risk is contrary to the law.

Trial Court's Rulings

The trial court heard oral argument on February 25, 2013, and took the motion under submission. On February 27, 2013, the court denied summary judgment but granted summary adjudication as to the negligence and the respondeat superior causes of action. As to the negligence claim, the court held that the Jacksons cited no authority in which financial interactions or financial pressure is sufficient to create a special relationship. Moreover, the Jacksons did not present sufficient evidence to establish that AEG exercised complete control over Michael's medical welfare. The court further stated there was no negligent undertaking, AEG established that it made no specific undertaking, and that there was no reliance or increased risk of harm. The court found that a general undertaking to provide for “medical care” is too broad and not supported by the case law or facts....

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