Lawsuits from two men who accused Michael Jackson of abusing them as children in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland have been brought back from dismissal.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Friday reversed a ruling from a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissing the suits from Wade Robson and James Safechuck. They will be able to proceed with claims that a pair of corporations owned by the singer had a legal duty to protect them from sexual abuse Jackson is alleged to have inflicted on them when they were children.
The justices found that it would be “perverse” to find that the corporations should be excused from a responsibility to oversee the safety of the plaintiffs because they’re solely owned by Jackson.
The ruling marks the second time the suits, filed in 2013, were restored after being dismissed. In 2020, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Young found that Robson and Safechuck can’t sue the Jackson-controlled corporations for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty because they didn’t have the ability to stop his alleged sexual abuse of the children. Their suits were initially dismissed in 2017 because the statute of limitations had expired, but were brought back under legislation that gave a three-year window of victims of sexual abuse to sue.
The court rejected the corporations’ arguments that they didn’t have a duty to protect the men because “they had no ability to control Jackson—their sole owner—or his interactions” with children. “To treat Jackson’s wholly-owned instruments as different from Jackson himself is to be mesmerized by abstractions,” wrote Associate Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. in a concurring opinion.
A Los Angeles judge will now reconsider the accusations against Jackson.
The estate for Jackson has denied claims that he abused either of the men, who accused the singer of molesting them after meeting him on video and commercial shoots.