A California appeals court on Friday remanded lawsuits filed by two men who allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them for years when they were children.
A three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals said that the lawsuits brought by Wade Robson and James Safechuck should not have been dismissed by a lower court and that their claims that the two corporations owned by Mr. Jackson had responsibility to protect them, were valid. A new law in California that temporarily expanded the scope of sexual abuse cases allowed the appeals court to bring the case back.
This is the second time that lawsuits filed by Mr. Robson in 2013 and Mr. Safechuck a year later have returned to trial after being dismissed. Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechick became even more widely known after telling their stories in a 2019 HBO documentary titled “Leaving Neverland.”
A judge who dismissed the lawsuits in 2021 said the corporations, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures, could not be expected to function like Boy Scouts or a church, where a child in their care , should expect protection from them. Singer Michael Jackson, who died in 2009, was the sole owner and shareholder of the companies.
But the Court of Appeal disagreed with this position saying in its decision that “a corporation that creates conditions conducive to the sexual abuse of children by one of its employees is not exempt from the legal obligation to protect children, simply and only that it is owned by the author who committed the abuse”.
Jonathan Steinsapir, an attorney for Jackson’s estate, told the AP he was “disappointed” with the decision.
“We remain fully convinced that Michael is innocent of these allegations, which are contrary to all credible evidence. They (allegations) were first made only years after Michael’s death by people motivated only for the purpose of financial gain”.
Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechuck, said in an email that they were “pleased but not surprised” that the court overturned earlier rulings that it called unfair. He said that “we look forward to a trial where the truth prevails”.
The judges themselves did not decide on the veracity of the accusations against Michael Jackson. This will be the subject of an upcoming jury trial to be held in Los Angeles.
“We believe that the truth will ultimately prevail with the exoneration of Michael again,” Mr. Steinsapir said on Friday.
Mr Robson, 40 and a choreographer by profession, met Mr Jackson when he was 5 years old. He went on to appear in three music videos of the popular singer.
In his lawsuit, he alleges that Mr. Jackson sexually harassed him over a seven-year period.
Mr. Safechuck, 45, says he was 9 when he first met Mr. Jackson while filming a Pepsi commercial. He said Mr. Jackson called him often and gave him gifts and then sexually abused him.