The ruling is the second time that a court has revived the lawsuits, which were first filed against Jackson estate-owned companies in 2012.
A California appeals court has held that two men accusing the late Michael Jackson of sexual abuse may pursue claims against two of his companies.
According to The Associated Press, a three-judge panel from the California Second District Court of Appeal found that lawsuits filed by Wade Robson and James Safechuck should not have been dismissed by a lower court.
Instead, the panel said that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that the Jackson-owned corporations had a legal obligation to protect them from harm.
The Associated Press notes that this is the second time that Robson and Safechuck’s claims have been revived.
First filed in 2012, the claims were dismissed nearly a decade later. In a 2021 ruling, a California judge opined that that the two defendant corporations—MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc.—could not be expected to function like the Boy Scouts or a community church, either of which would be expected to make special provisions for children.
However, the Second District Court of Appeal disagreed, stating 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 panel further said that 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.”
Jonathon Steinsapir, an attorney for the Jackson estate, said that he is “disappointed” with the ruling.
“Two distinguished trial judges repeatedly dismissed these cases on numerous occasions over the last decade because the law required it,” Steinsapir told The Associated Press in an email statement. “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.”
Both Robson and Safechuck became somewhat widely known after telling their stories in the 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland.”
An attorney for the men—Vince Finaldi—told The Associated Press that his clients were “pleased but not surprised” by the court’s ruling.
Finaldi said that the court had, in effect, found that the last judge’s “incorrect rulings in these cases, which were against California law and would have set a dangerous precedent that endangered children throughout the state and country.”
“We eagerly look forward to a trial on the merits,” he said.