Artist News Legal

Michael Jackson fans sue the late star’s accusers in French courts

By | Published on Friday 5 July 2019

Michael Jackson

Three Michael Jackson fan groups in France have sued Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the two men who appear in the ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary, over allegations they defamed the late king of pop.

Robson and Safechuck both knew Jackson when they were children. Since the pop star’s death a decade ago, they have alleged that Jackson abused them during that time. Their allegations came to much wider attention earlier this year when they featured in the ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary that was aired by HBO in the US and Channel 4 in the UK.

The Jackson family and estate, and the late musician’s fans, have been repeatedly critical of the programme, its director, and its subjects. They point out that both Robson and Safechuck defended Jackson while the star was still alive. Though the documentary does actually deal with why the two men made their claims somewhat late in the day.

The airing of ‘Leaving Neverland’ and the resulting renewed media interest in the various abuse allegations made against Jackson has certainly tarnished the pop star’s legacy somewhat. Which possibly also impacted on plans to mark the recent ten year anniversary of Jackson’s premature death back in 2009.

Jackson’s supporters claim that Robson and Safechuck are lying, seeking either fame or fortune by making these allegations since Jackson’s passing. But the Jackson estate’s legal options are limited because, in most countries, defamation laws don’t normally apply to the deceased. It did go legal against HBO, but mainly by citing a 1992 contract between the broadcaster and the musician which had a non-disparagement clause.

However, defamation laws in France work differently. The lawyer representing the Michael Jackson Community, MJ Street and On The Line fan groups – Emmanuel Ludot – is quoted by Reuters as saying: “In France you cannot sully the image of the dead. There’s moral and emotional suffering. And when there’s suffering, there’s compensation. It’s very simple”.

The fans are seeking symbolic damages of one euro from each of Jackson’s accusers. The estate is not involved in the proceedings but, according to the Associated Press, has sent a letter of support to the three fan groups.

Back in 2014, five Michael Jackson fans successfully sued Conrad Murray – the doctor convicted of causing Jackson’s death – for “emotional damage” through the French courts. Also represented by Ludot, they were each awarded damages of one euro.

A judgement on this new case is expected on 4 Oct.