Insurer Challenges Jackson Doctor’s Legal Bills in Texas Court

An insurer for the doctor charged in Michael Jackson’s death has asked a judge to rule that it is not responsible for the physician’s legal bills in two high-profile court cases and fights to retain his medical license.

Medicus Insurance Co. argues that Dr. Conrad Murray’s medical malpractice policy doesn’t cover his defense costs because the cases stem from alleged criminal wrongdoing, according to documents filed Wednesday in state court in Houston. Murray’s policy, which was purchased roughly a month before Jackson’s death in June 2009, did not cover incidents involving general anesthesia, the company argues.

Murray faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in Los Angeles, where authorities accuse him of administering a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol to the pop star in the bedroom of his rented mansion.

The criminal case is just one of the legal challenges Murray faces. He has been sued by Jackson’s father for wrongful death in federal court in Los Angeles, and authorities have sought to either suspend or limit his medical license in Texas, California and Nevada. One of Murray’s clinics is in Houston.

The doctor is relying on four attorneys in California and Texas to defend him in the criminal and civil cases. He has argued that he needs to maintain his medical license to pay for his criminal defense.

Medicus, which is based in Austin, claims it is not required to defend Murray’s medical license in the three states. The insurer argues that scrutiny by Texas and California officials came as a result of allegations of wrongdoing in Jackson’s death, and that Nevada attempted to suspend Murray’s medical license because he was behind on child support payments, not for his medical work.

The court filings do not indicate how much Murray’s defense in the various cases may cost.

“We believe Medicus is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law,” Murray’s attorney, Charles Peckham, said Wednesday. “We believe there should be coverage.”

Peckham asked the judge in a court filing Monday to delay the case until after the criminal matter is decided, arguing that defending it would violate the doctor’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

“He simply can’t engage in this kind of case,” Peckham said, adding that coverage Murray applied for, and the insurer initially accepted, would have covered all the claims.

Medicus filed its case in August, but the legal fees dispute was disclosed in a court filing Wednesday in the wrongful death case.

The company’s lawsuit states that Murray’s policy only covers the doctor’s actions in Texas. The company filed its case after Murray asked the insurer to pay for his defense in the California court cases and medical board hearings in other states, according to the complaint.

Murray is due back in Los Angeles next week for a hearing in the criminal case, and prosecutors are expected to lay out some of their evidence against him during a preliminary hearing in January.

Last week, a federal judge in Houston ruled that Lloyd’s of London was not required to pay millions of dollars in legal fees for jailed financier R. Allen Stanford and two former executives charged in a massive Ponzi scheme. The insurer had argued the men’s insurance policy did not cover money laundering charges.