The California 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal has revived lawsuits filed by James Safechuck and Wade Robson, the two men at the center of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, who claimed they were sexually assaulted by Michael Jackson when they were minors.
The court was looking at whether the plaintiffs had waited too long to sue two of Jackson’s corporations, MJJ Productions Inc and MJJ Ventures Inc, for their involvement in the alleged abuse of the boys. The statue of limitations has previously kept the cases from moving forward against the corporations, cited in the suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
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On January 1, 2020, California law was officially amended to allow alleged victims of childhood sexual assault to bring claims before their 40th birthdays. The law previously cut off such lawsuits filed after the age of 26, as in the cases of Safechuck (who filed in 2014 at age 36) and Robson (who filed in 2013 at age 30). Jackson died in 2009.
The court today reversed the previous rulings in the corporations’ favor that had been based on the older statute and remanded for further proceedings. The three-judge panel declined to address any other elements of the suits, and said “the truth of these allegations is not at issue here.” (Read the ruling here.)
“We are pleased that the Court of Appeal recognized the strong protections California has for sexual abuse victims, as well as the extended time for them to file claims,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Vince W. Finaldi said Friday in a statement. “We look forward to proving these claims before a jury. The time is coming for the Jackson estate and lawyers to ‘face the music’ regarding all of these lies and misrepresentations they have been making about Wade and James, and we welcome that day.”
The men are also involved in a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Estate against HBO over airing Leaving Neverland. The network’s motion to dismiss the case was denied in September.
The Jackson estate representatives took issue with that interpretation of the ruling.
“Contrary to reports, the Court of Appeal did NOT revive the lawsuits by Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechuck against the Estate of Michael Jackson,” said a statement from Howard Weitzman, the attorney for the estate of Michael Jackson. “Both of those lawsuits were dismissed in 2016 and the judgments in favor of the Estate and against Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechuck remain FINAL.”
Weitzman contended in his statement that “Both men admitted in those cases that they committed perjury. The Court of Appeal’s ruling merely revived lawsuits against Michael Jackson’s companies, which absurdly claim that Michael’s employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened. The ruling was the result of a change in the law signed by Governor Newsom that extends the time for genuine victims to file claims. The Court of Appeal specifically did not address the truth of these false allegations, and we are confident that both lawsuits will be dismissed and that Michael Jackson will be vindicated once again. “
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