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Michael Jackson sex abuse lawsuits previously dismissed can be revived, appeals court rules

Two men who accused Michael Jackson of abusing them when they were children will get their day in court, an appeals court ruled, overturning a lower court decision.

Two lawsuits accusing Michael Jackson of sex abuse that were previously dismissed have been revived by a California court of appeals.

On Friday, a three-judge panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s lawsuits can go to trial. 

Both men, who also repeated their allegations in the 2019 HBO documentary "Finding Neverland," claim that the late "Billie Jean" singer repeatedly abused them when they worked with him as boys. Jackson died in 2009 at age 50.

The panel found that Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits against Michael Jackson-owned corporations MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc. should not have been dismissed by a lower court judge in 2021. The suits had also been dismissed in 2017, for being beyond the statute of limitations. A new California law that temporarily broadened the scope of sexual abuse cases enabled the appeals court to restore them.


The judge ruled at the time that boys working for the two entities could not expect the same protections as required by the Boy Scouts or a church. 

On Friday, the panel ruled, "a corporation that facilitates the sexual abuse of children by one of its employees is not excused from an affirmative duty to protect those children merely because it is solely owned by the perpetrator of the abuse."

They added that "it would be perverse to find no duty based on the corporate defendant having only one shareholder. And so we reverse the judgments entered for the corporations."

Robson, 40, who first met Jackson when he was 5 years old and appeared in three of his music videos, claimed that the popstar abused him over a period of seven years. 

Safechuck, 45, said he met Jackson while filming a commercial when he was 9 and the singer began called him repeatedly and gave him gifts before he started abusing him. 

Their lawsuits were first brought in 2013 and 2014, years after Jackson had died in June 2009.

Jonathan Steinsapir, attorney for the Jackson estate who argued for the defense in the case last month, said it didn’t make sense to require employees to stop their boss from abuse. 

"It would require low-level employees to confront their supervisor and call them pedophiles," he argued, but Holly Boyer, an attorney for Robson and Safechuck, countered that as boys they had been "left alone in this lion’s den by the defendant’s employees. An affirmative duty to protect and to warn is correct."

Steinsapir also claimed the defense has evidence that hasn’t reached trial that the boys’ parents were "not looking to Michael Jackson’s companies for protection from Michael Jackson." 


Steinsapir told Fox Business in a statement, "We are disappointed with the Court's decision. Two distinguished trial judges repeatedly dismissed these cases on numerous occasions over the last decade because the law required it. We remain fully confident that Michael is innocent of these allegations, which are contrary to all credible evidence and independent corroboration, and which were only first made years after Michael’s death by men motivated solely by money. We trust that the truth will ultimately prevail with Michael’s vindication yet again. Michael Jackson himself said, ‘lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.’" 

Vince Finaldi, who represents Robson and Safechuck, called the previous dismissals "incorrect ruling," telling The Associated Press that they were "pleased but not surprised" by the reversal. 

He added that the dismissals "would have set a dangerous precedent that endangered children throughout state and country. We eagerly look forward to a trial on the merits." 

In a concurring opinion issued with Friday’s decision, one of the panelists, Associate Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr., wrote that "to treat Jackson’s wholly-owned instruments as different from Jackson himself is to be mesmerized by abstractions. This is not an alter ego case. This is a same ego case."


An upcoming trial in Los Angeles will rule on the validity of the allegations themselves. 

Jackson was acquitted of sex abuse charges in a separate trial involving a different accuser in 2005. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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