Michael Jackson’s Legal Thriller Likely Uninsured

By Michael Ha

NU Online News Service, April 1, 2:55 p.m. EST?Singer Michael Jackson, whose hits include “Beat It,” will likely hear those words from his insurers if he asks them to cover the multimillion-dollar costs of his defense on child molestation charges, according to a legal expert.[@@]

Mr. Jackson, a.k.a. the King of Pop, has insurance through Aon Corp.’s Albert G. Ruben specialty group in Los Angeles, an industry source told National Underwriter without specifying what type of coverage is involved. Aon Corp. declined NU‘s request for an interview regarding its relationship with the famed moonwalker.

Mr. Jackson has been on trial at the Santa Barbara County Superior Court since Feb. 28, accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland ranch two years ago.

But whether the jury acquits or convicts him, his insurance companies probably won’t be singing “”I’ll Be There” and arriving with a claim check.

Cathy Fleming, who leads the litigation practice group at New York-based law firm Edwards & Angell, explained that there is a huge difference between civil and criminal trials in terms of possible insurance indemnity.

“In civil cases, people will frequently have coverage from their umbrella or other insurance policies, but it’s much harder and unusual to get it for criminal activities,” the lawyer said.

Sometimes, policies may contain specific provisions to indemnify clients in case they are accused of specific wrongdoings. So it’s possible?though not likely?that Mr. Jackson has such contracts in place, Ms. Fleming speculated.

But given Mr. Jackson’s history of a prior lawsuit alleging misconduct with a young boy and his televised statements acknowledging sleeping with youngsters, securing such coverage would have been difficult, she said.

Many wealthy entertainers have insurance protection under directors-and-officers coverage through corporations they have set up to manage their business. Such coverage can indemnify insureds who are accused of wrongdoing in the context of their work. But while Mr. Jackson may have such insurance, it certainly won’t pay for criminal trials involving sex charges, Ms. Fleming said.

“Mr. Jackson has a high-powered, very good attorney,” Ms. Fleming said, referring to defense lawyer Tom Mesereau. “So I would imagine that he’s got a fee in a several-million-dollars range or higher,” the lawyer estimated.

“By the time Mr. Jackson is done with attorneys, press relations and the rest, I would imagine that regardless of the outcome, he will have spent at least $10 million. Mr. Jackson will likely have to bear the cost out of his own pocket.”