Cases alleging sexual assault from Michael Jackson can now pursue further litigation against his companies rules a US appeals court judge.
A Californian appeals court ruled that lawsuits from two men who allege that Michael Jackson molested them as children are free to pursue litigation against companies owned by the singer, who died in 2009.
40-year-old Wade Robson and 45-year-old James Safechuck have alleged that Michael Jackson sexually abused them for years and that employees of his two companies, MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc., were complicit and acted as his “co-conspirators, collaborators, facilitators, and alter egos.” The lawsuits claim that employees of the companies failed to take steps to prevent abuse, violating their “duty of care” owed to the boys.
The two companies are now owned by Michael Jackson’s estate, which has repeatedly denied any abuse of Robson or Safechuck.
“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,” said Jonathan Steinsapir, an attorney for the Jackson estate.
The HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” featured both men’s stories, in which Robson and Safechuck accused Michael Jackson of molesting them and cultivating relationships with their families to secure access to the boys.
“Everybody wanted to meet Michael or be with Michael,” said Safechuck in the film. “He was already larger than life. And then he likes you.”
An attorney for Safechuck and Robson, Vince Finaldi, said that the court had overturned “incorrect rulings in these cases which were against California law and would have set a dangerous precedent that endangered children.”
Robson and Safechuck filed their lawsuits against the Jackson companies in 2013 and 2014, respectively. In 2017, both cases were dismissed due to exceeding California’s statute of limitations. In 2020, both cases were reopened after a new state law provided plaintiffs in child sex abuse cases an additional grace period to file lawsuits.
The suits were again dismissed in October 2020 and April 2021, when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the two companies and their employees were not legally obligated to protect Safechuck and Robson.
However, on Friday, August 18, California’s Second District Court of Appeals ruled that 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.”
The cases were consolidated in the appeals court and will now return to a trial court. Before the Robson and Safechuck lawsuits, Michael Jackson faced two separate criminal investigations in 1994 and 2003 into the possible sexual abuse of children.