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Hospital Must Face Trial Over Billy Preston’s Death

(CN) - The heirs of Grammy-winning soul musician William "Billy" Preston, who was informally honored as a "fifth Beatle," can sue an Arizona hospital for wrongful death, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Preston died of kidney failure at age 59 in June 2006 after reportedly spending about six months in a coma. In one of Preston's last public appearances, he performed on the fourth season finale of "American Idol."

Among several collaborations with the Beatles, Preston was featured as a keyboardist on the 1969 hit "Get Back," a mix of which the Fab Four included as the closing track on "Let It Be." Preston also worked with the Rolling Stones, Mihalia Jackson, and Sly and the Family Stone, among other luminary artists.

Lettie and Rodena Preston, the musician's half-sisters, sued Kindred Hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz., for wrongful death, negligence and elder abuse.

The hospital argued that the Preston sisters lacked standing to sue because their brother had gone into bankruptcy.

After the trial court ruled in the hospital's favor, the court of appeals and Arizona Supreme Court both ruled that the Preston sisters could take the case to trial.

"Kindred contends that construing [the applicable rule] as liberally allowing amendments to name the real party in interest may lead to abuse, such as substitution of a plaintiff on the eve of trial after prolonged litigation," Justice Scott Bales wrote for the court. "Kindred has not argued that it would be prejudiced by the proposed amendment to substitute the plaintiff here."

Preston's other credits include playing the title role in the Beatles 1978 movie, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," starring as the musical guest on the debut episode of "Saturday Night Live" in 1975.


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