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Two Courts Reject Appeals in Michael Jackson Death Cases; Insurance Suit Over $17M Policy is Settled

By: Martha Neil

Litigation related to the death of pop singer Michael Jackson appears to be nearing a conclusion after the settlement of an insurance coverage case over a $17.5 million policy and a unanimous California appellate court ruling upholding the involuntary manslaughter conviction of his personal physician.

Both were announced in court Wednesday. One Associated Press article reports on the settlement between Lloyd’s of London and Jackson’s estate and another Associated Press article discusses the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling against former cardiologist Conrad Murray.

He was recently released after serving two years for causing Jackson’s death in 2009, which was attributed to an injection of the intravenous anesthetic propofol.

Murray’s “callous disregard for Mr. Jackson’s health and safety was shown throughout the trial from the manner in which he administered a number of dangerous drugs to Mr. Jackson without the appropriate medical equipment, precautions or personnel in place, and to the manner in which he left Mr. Jackson unattended,” the 2nd District opinion states.

Meanwhile, lawyers for certain Lloyd’s underwriters and Jackson’s estate announced at a Los Angeles court hearing that they had reached an undisclosed settlement in the insurance coverage case. Originally brought by Lloyd’s against AEG Live Inc., the promoter of a “This Is It” comeback concert that didn’t occur due to Jackson’s death, the suit focused on Jackson’s estate after the promoter was dismissed from the legal action. At issue was whether a $17.5 million nonappearance and concert cancellation policy issued months before Jackson’s death was voided due to withheld information about his health.

Earlier this week, a judge in a Los Angeles wrongful death case unsuccessfully brought by Jackson’s mother against AEG Live refused a motion to grant a new trial. It had accused the promoter of negligence in hiring Murray as the singer’s personal physician.


Yellow Cab bankruptcy means couple may not see ‘a dime’ of $26M verdict

By Ameet Sachdev, Steve Mills and Carlos Sadovi

T he company that operates Yellow Cab in Chicago filed for bankruptcy protection early Wednesday, just hours after a Cook County jury awarded nearly $26 million to a real estate executive from Hinsdale who was severely brain damaged in a high-speed taxi crash.

The bankruptcy filing means Marc M. Jacobs and his wife, Deborah, “may never see a dime,” said one of their lawyers, Robert Clifford.

The legal turn of events occurred a few hours apart. First, a jury awarded $25.9 million to the couple Tuesday evening. Then, at 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Yellow Cab Affiliation Inc. of Chicago filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago.

Yellow Cab, with one of Chicago’s largest fleets, said the bankruptcy filing was a direct response to the jury verdict. The filing listed Jacobs and his wife as among the company’s creditors.

A lawyer for Yellow Cab said its taxis would continue operating as usual while it seeks protection from creditors.

Jacobs, who was 44 at the time of the August 2005 crash, worked as a real estate partner at Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg. He was returning to his Hinsdale home after dinner with a client when the driver of the taxi he was riding in lost control as his cab exited southbound I-294 at Ogden Avenue.

The taxi went onto a drainage area next to the exit ramp, then vaulted some 32 feet through the air and hit a concrete barrier. Jacobs suffered severe and permanent brain damage and, even after surgeries and rehabilitation, was unable to return to the level of work he did before the crash, his lawyers said.

Jacobs and his wife, who were represented by Clifford as well as lawyers with Tomaski Kotin & Kasserman, filed a lawsuit accusing the driver, Cornelus C. Ezeagu, of negligence. Their lawsuit also named the owner of the cab, Matthew Ezeagu, as well as Yellow Cab Affiliation Inc.

The jury found the driver and Yellow Cab to be at fault and awarded Jacobs $21.99 million and his wife $3.96 million. She suffered “loss of services, support, affection, society, companionship and consortium of her husband,” her lawyers said.

A Yellow Cab lawyer said the taxi was not owned or operated by the company. The company said it would appeal the jury verdict.

According to Clifford, Yellow Cab’s bankruptcy filing puts the family in a legal limbo by making them creditors to the company.

Clifford said he believed the bankruptcy filing was a “long-planned strategy to avoid accountability and responsibility” because it was filed so soon after the jury verdict.

The jury’s verdict was read in court about 7 p.m., and the court proceedings did not adjourn until about 8 p.m, according to Clifford.

The bankruptcy filing prohibits the Jacobs from collecting on the jury award until the bankruptcy has been resolved, said Douglas Baird, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Chicago Law School.

In the bankruptcy documents, Yellow Cab asserted that it doesn’t have the assets to pay the $26 million verdict. It estimated that it has assets of $1 million to $10 million. The documents don’t show if Yellow Cab has any secured creditors who have claims against the assets of the company, such as cars, dispatch equipment and taxicab licenses. If the company’s assets are liquidated, secured creditors get paid before unsecured claims.

The jury award is listed in the bankruptcy filing as an unsecured claim.

The court documents show that the company is owned by a limited liability company called Yellow Group. According to state corporation records, Yellow Group is controlled by Michael Levine of New York and Patton Corrigan of Florida. Levine purchased an interest in Yellow Cab in 2005.

Clifford said that as a result of the crash Deborah Jacobs had to become the main breadwinner and the family was forced to move to California for her job. Marc Jacobs volunteers at a local hospital and counsels veterans and children who suffer from brain trauma.


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