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Appeals court revives lawsuits against Michael Jackson companies

Michael Jackson
A still from the documentary “Leaving Neverland.”
(Sundance Institute)

Two lawsuits brought by Michael Jackson’s most vocal accusers were revived on Friday after being dismissed in 2017.

The Second Appellate District in the California Court of Appeals issued the decision on Friday after a state law went into effect extending the statute of limitations on child sexual-abuse cases. The decision reinstated previous legal actions brought by Jackson’s accusers, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, against two corporate entities that Jackson owned, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures Inc.

The two men alleged childhood sexual abuse by the late king of pop in last year’s Emmy-winning documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Jackson’s estate has issued heated denials about the accusations made in the film.

“We are pleased that the Court has recognized the strong protections California has put into place for sexual-abuse victims under the state’s new law extending the statute of limitations,” their attorney, Vince Finaldi, said in a statement to The Times. “We look forward to sharing the facts of the terrible abuse of James Safechuck and Wade Robson with a jury.”

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The suits had been dismissed in 2017 after a judge ruled that MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures were not liable because “no one other than Michael Jackson had the legal ability or authority to control Michael Jackson.”

But a state law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in October allowed the suits to move forward on Friday. The law, which went into effect on Wednesday, increased the age for which an accuser could report an allegation from 26 years old to 40 years old.

The restoration seemed likely after three judges made a tentative ruling on the case in November.

Sundance Film Festival
Wade Robson, left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck from the documentary “Leaving Neverland.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Jackson’s companies, responded to Friday’s court decision by saying that the lawsuits “absurdly claim that Michael’s employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened” and pointed to the law change for their restoration as well.

“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,” Weitzman said in an email to The Times.

Safechuck and Robson previously sued the Michael Jackson estate, but their cases were dismissed in 2016.

In February, the estate took legal action against HBO for violating a non-disparagement agreement and engaging in “posthumous character assassination” of Jackson, who died in 2009. The case was sent to arbitration, but HBO appealed that ruling in October.


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