Can Dying Be Good For Your Career?

Now that the election is over, I can finally blog about Michael Jackson.  A civil suit was filed by Jackson’s estate against Conrad Murray, who was convicted of criminal wrongdoing in Jackson’s death.  Murray’s most intriguing defense is that Jackson’s death was actually beneficial to the estate and thus there was no overall harm to his family.

It can be true that a celebrity will earn more dead than alive.  That possibility seems to rest largely on how the person died (was it notorious?) and whether they died young.  Going one step further and saying that this marginal gain outweighs the loss of consortium that family members suffer is something that, as far as I know, no court or jury has taken.  In Jackson’s case, the calculation is complicated by the fact that he was (apparently) a spendthrift, and thus his net income was also boosted once he died because he was no longer spending the money.  So what do you think?  Can this defense succeed?

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1 Response

  1. Michael Yuri says:

    “In Jackson’s case, the calculation is complicated by the fact that he was (apparently) a spendthrift, and thus his net income was also boosted once he died because he was no longer spending the money.”

    The question that occurs to me (knowing next to nothing about the law in this area) is whether we should view the estate as only representing the interests of Jackson’s heirs, or instead as basically standing in the shoes of the deceased.

    My gut instinct would be the latter, in which case the spendthrift argument can’t possibly work. From the deceased’s point of view, the financial loss is not just the money that would have been left over for his heirs, but all of the income that would have gone to his own personal consumption.

    Offsetting the financial gains from the death seems somewhat more plausible to me. If the estate can recover his entire future earnings potential had he lived, then the extra income resulting directly from the death seems like a windfall. It seems wrong though to offset these purely financial benefits against damages for intangible harms like loss of consortium.