Thanks to a new law, Wade Robson and James Safechuck — two men who have accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them when they were children — will get the chance to sue two corporate entities tied to the Jackson estate.
On January 1st 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 a 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 corporations do not dispute these revisions apply to plaintiffs’ nonfatal cases still pending on appeal, rendering their claims timely,” the ruling read. “We agree and find their dispute under the previous statutory provisions to be moot.”
Given this new law, on Friday a 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.
Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for Robson and Safechuck, tells 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.”
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. As for the new ruling, he 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.”
Robson and Safechuck detailed their accusations against Jackson in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, although their legal battle with the Jackson estate began when they filed their first lawsuits in 2013. Two years later, however, the Jackson estate was bumped from the suit, leaving, MJJ Productions, Inc. and MJJ Ventures, Inc. as defendants. Then, in 2017, a judge dismissed those suits under the old law governing the statute of limitations in regards to childhood sexual abuse cases.
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. For instance, they’ve 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 ostensible 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.
“This is one of the things they keep doing,” he said of the Jackson estate, “taking one tiny piece and taking it out of context and using it as some sort of excuse or accusation. And there’s a whole truth and story behind each one of these tiny things that when you take the time to understand all the complexity and all of the conflicting feelings. . . . All the years that James and I defended Michael is all part of how it goes down, with the love that’s all intertwined with the abuse.”