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Californian law change will likely revive child abuse lawsuits against Michael Jackson companies

By | Published on Tuesday 19 November 2019

Michael Jackson

Lawsuits being pursued by the two men who accuse Michael Jackson of child abuse could be reinstated because of a change in Californian law.

Allegations made by James Safechuck and Wade Robson have, of course, come to much wider attention this year because of their involvement in the HBO documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’. They both sued entities linked to Jackson in the years following the pop star’s death in 2009 claiming that they had been abused by the musician as children.

Both their legal cases were ultimately dismissed in no small part because of the statute of limitations that exists for such lawsuits in California. Under previous laws, victims of child abuse needed to file their lawsuits by the age of 26. Both claimants had passed that age by the time they went legal.

However, a change was made to Californian law on this point recently, so that victims can now make a legal claim against alleged child abusers up to the age of 40.

The politician who led on that amendment to the state’s statute of limitation laws, Lorena Gonzalez, noted that: “The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous”.

Both Safechuck and Robson now hope that their respective cases against Jackson-linked companies can be reinstated as a result of the amended law. And yesterday an appeals court in California basically agreed in a provisional ruling. It was a decision that was, unsurprisingly, welcomed by the two men’s legal rep Vince Finaldi who told the Associated Press: “All they’ve ever wanted is their day in court”.

Reps for the Jackson estate have been disparaging of the two men’s allegations ever since they went legal, arguing that both Safechuck and Robson spoke out in support of Jackson in relation to other claims of child abuse prior to the star’s death. The estate has repeatedly alleged that the two accusers are motivated by the possible damages they might receive, while also arguing that the aforementioned HBO documentary was entirely one sided.

However, the estate’s lawyers yesterday accepted that Safechuck and Robson’s cases would probably have to return to the court that originally dismissed them as a result of the change to Californian law. But, they said, this week’s ruling was on that point of law alone, and said nothing about the substance of the two men’s allegations. Nor did it mean that the lower court would allow the cases to go to full trial second time round.

They also stressed that only the lawsuits against MJJ Productions Inc and MJJ Ventures Inc were being reinstated. Safechuck and Robson had originally also sought to hold the estate itself liable for the abuse they claim they suffered.

Estate attorney Howard L Weitzman said: “This new law extends the time for genuine victims of abuse to file legal claims. The appellate court’s tentative ruling is not on the merits of Robson and Safechuck’s allegations and the court in no way said that these cases will go to trial. Neither does it reverse the 2015 rulings dismissing Robson and Safechuck’s claims against the estate, which are final and no longer subject to any appeals”.

Weitzman added: “We are confident that the claims against Michael Jackson’s corporate entities will, once again, be dismissed as has happened before”.



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