Almost four years after his shocking death, the bizarre life and demise of Michael Jackson will play out again in a $40 billion civil trial that pits the singer's family against the organisers of a musical comeback that never happened.

Opening statements began on Monday (April 29) in what is expected to be an emotional, three-month long jury trial that seeks to hold AEG Live, the promoters of the never-realised series of 2009 London concerts, liable for the wrongful death of the "Thriller" singer.

An attorney for the concert promotion company AEG Live warned jurors they would see a very different view of the charismatic Michael Jackson as the company seeks to prove it was not liable for the pop star's death.

Marvin Putnam, making his opening statement said AEG officials had no idea that Jackson was taking the surgical anesthetic that led to his death.

He said the three-month civil case would bring to light "some ugly stuff" about the singer's private behaviour.

The lawsuit, brought by Jackson's elderly mother Katherine on behalf of the singer's three children, alleges that privately-held AEG Live was negligent in hiring the physician convicted in 2011 of his involuntary manslaughter, to care for the singer while he rehearsed for the series of 50 shows.

Thomas Mesereau, the attorney who successfully defended Jackson in his 2005 child molestation trial, said evidence in this case supports Katherine Jackson's claim.

"I think it's an uphill battle for the defense. I think those e-mails are very, very damaging to the defense. They acknowledge they are paying Conrad Murray. They are putting pressure on Conrad Murray to make him perform. I think they had a contract under California law and I think the sympathy and the momentum is going to be with Katherine Jackson and Michael's children," Mesereau said in an interview outside the Los Angeles County courthouse.

Jackson, 50, drowning in debt and seeking to rebuild a reputation damaged by his 2005 trial and acquittal on child molestation charges, died in Los Angeles of an overdose of the powerful surgical anesthetic propofol and a cocktail of other sedatives in June 2009.

His personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, is serving a four-year prison sentence after being found criminally negligent by administering propofol to Jackson as a sleep aid.

Presented by Adam Justice