Michael Jackson sexual abuse lawsuits revived by US appeals court

Two men who allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them when they were children can resume their lawsuits, a court of appeals has ruled.

Wade Robson and James Safechuck – who featured in the two-part 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland – alleged that Jackson groomed and sexually abused them in the 1990s

A California appeals court said Friday (August 18) that the case should not have been dismissed to a lower court, and they can now pursue lawsuits against companies owned by the late singer, according to Associated Press.

It’s the second time that the lawsuits, brought by Robson and Safechuck in 2013 and 2014, respectively, have been brought back after dismissal.

The judge who dismissed the suits in 2021 found that MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc. did not have a legal duty to protect the children from the alleged abuse.

The higher court disagreed and wrote: “A corporation that facilitates the sexual abuse of children by one of its employees is not excused from an affirmative duty to protect those children merely because it is solely owned by the perpetrator of the abuse.”

Michael Jackson. Credit: Dave Hogan / Getty Images

They added: “It would be perverse to find no duty based on the corporate defendant having only one shareholder. And so, we reverse the judgments entered for the corporations.”

Jonathan Steinsapir, attorney for the Jackson estate, said they were “disappointed” by the decision.

“Two distinguished trial judges repeatedly dismissed these cases on numerous occasions over the last decade because the law required it,” Steinsapir said via email to Associated Press.

“We remain fully confident that Michael is innocent of these allegations, which are contrary to all credible evidence and independent corroboration, and which were only first made years after Michael’s death by men motivated solely by money.”

An attorney for Robson and Safechuck, Vince Finaldi, said in an email that they were “pleased but not surprised” at the court overturning the previous “incorrect rulings in these cases, which were against California law and would have set a dangerous precedent that endangered children throughout state and country. We eagerly look forward to a trial on the merits”.

Steinsapir had argued in July that it does not make sense that employees would be legally required to stop behaviour that their boss was responsible for, adding: “It would require low-level employees to confront their supervisor and call them pedophiles.”

Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch CREDIT: Jason Mitchell/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic

Holly Boyer, another attorney for Robson and Safechuck, countered and said that the boys “were left alone in this lion’s den by the defendant’s employees. An affirmative duty to protect and to warn is correct”.

Ahead of the premiere of Leaving Neverland, which included graphic details of the alleged abuse, The Jackson Estate issued a statement in which they called it “another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”.

Jackson himself denied any allegations regarding the abuse of underage boys.

For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.

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