On January 1, 2020 a new California law went into effect that allows victims of childhood sexual abuse until the age of 40 (up from 26) to file civil lawsuits. The new law also extended the statute of limitations on a provision that stated victims could sue third-party entities, tied to the alleged abuser that either knew, or should have known, that abuse was happening, or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the abuse.
The two men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them when they were children, both Wade Robson and James Safechuck can now sue the corporate entities tied to the Jackson Estate. Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for Robson and Safechuck, told Rolling Stone, “We’re pleased the appellate court has affirmed the strong protections that California has for sexual abuse victims and recognized the extended statute of limitations that it provides.”
The California Appeals Court overturned a 2017 ruling that stated Robson and Safechuck couldn’t sue MJJ Productions, Inc. or MJJ Ventures, Inc. because the suits hadn’t been filed within the statute of limitations and because neither entity could be held liable for Jackson’s alleged actions. Robson and Safechuck detailed their accusations against Jackson in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, Howard Weitzman, the lawyer for the Jackson estate, reiterated that the estate itself is still exempt from any legal proceedings. Weitzman said, “The Court of Appeal’s ruling merely revived lawsuits against Michael Jackson’s companies, which absurdly claim that Michael’s employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened. The ruling was the result of a change in the law signed by Governor Newsom that extends the time for genuine victims to file claims. The Court of Appeal specifically did not address the truth of these false allegations, and we are confident that both lawsuits will be dismissed and that Michael Jackson will be vindicated once again.”
The Jackson estate and Jackson’s family have repeatedly rebuffed Robson and Safechuck’s allegations throughout the legal battle and leading up to the premiere of Leaving Neverland. They have highlighted on numerous occasions that Robson testified that Jackson never molested him at the pop star’s 2005 criminal trial, and that Safechuck similarly told authorities that Jackson never abused him. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Robson addressed the contradictions in his story and Safechuck’s, their past support for Jackson and the reason it took them both so long to personally come to grips with the abuse they allegedly suffered and then come forward with it.
After the release of the film, Finding Neverland, The Jackson estate stated that it is truly sympathetic to any victims of abuse, but that the accusations made against Michael Jackson are merely a money grab. The Jackson family released another statement in addition to that of Michael’s estate, stating that they are appalled by the path taken by the creators of the film and that Jackson had always been found completely innocent of any wrong doings.