Lawsuits against two men who accused Michael Jackson of abusing children in an HBO documentary Leaving Neverland have been brought back from dismissal.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Friday reversed a ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Wade Robson and James Safechuck that dismissed the lawsuits. They can pursue claims that a pair of companies owned by the singer have a legal duty to protect them from sexual abuse allegedly inflicted on them as children by Jackson.
The justices found it “perverse” to find that the corporations should be absolved of responsibility for overseeing the plaintiffs’ defense because they were solely owned by Jackson.
The ruling marks the second reinstatement of cases filed in 2013 after being dismissed. In 2020, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Young found that Robson and companies controlled by Safechuck Jackson could not be sued for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty because they lacked the ability to prevent him from allegedly sexually abusing children. Their cases were initially dismissed in 2017 because the statute of limitations had expired, but were brought back under a law that gave sexual abuse victims a three-year window to sue.
The court rejected the companies’ arguments that they did not have a duty to protect the men because they “did not have the ability to control Jackson—their sole owner—or his interactions with the children”. “To treat Jackson’s wholly-owned instruments as distinct from Jackson’s is to be seduced by abstractions,” Associate Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. wrote in a concurring opinion.
A Los Angeles judge will review the charges against Jackson.
Jackson’s estate has denied claims he abused two of the men who accused the singer of harassing them after meeting him on video and commercial shoots.