A California Court of Appeal has ruled that two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who accused the late Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them as children, can proceed with their lawsuits against companies owned by the singer.
The decision, handed down on August 18th, overturns a previous ruling and challenges the notion that corporate ownership automatically shields companies from liability in such cases.
Robson and Safechuck initially filed their cases a decade ago, asserting that Jackson’s companies, MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc., had a legal obligation to protect them from the alleged abuse.
However, the companies argued, and a lower court concurred, that they could not be held responsible since Jackson was the sole owner, leaving them without the power to control his actions.
The recent ruling from the California Court of Appeal for the Second District rejects this reasoning, stating that a corporation facilitating the sexual abuse of children by an employee is not exempt from a duty to protect the victims, even if it is solely owned by the perpetrator.
The court stated, “It would be perverse to find no duty based on the corporate defendant having only one shareholder.”
While the corporations expressed disappointment with the decision, the legal teams of Robson and Safechuck welcomed the outcome.
Jonathan Steinsapir, lead counsel for MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc., maintained their confidence in Jackson’s innocence, denouncing the allegations as motivated by financial gain.
On the other side, Vince Finaldi, attorney for Robson and Safechuck, applauded the court’s decision, suggesting it prevented dangerous legal precedents that could jeopardize children’s safety.
Robson and Safechuck’s claims were detailed in the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” released in 2019.
Safechuck alleges he was abused “hundreds of times in various locations,” while Robson claims the abuse began when he was just seven years old and continued until he was 14.
The appeals court’s ruling has revived the lawsuits, granting Robson and Safechuck another chance to seek justice for the alleged abuses they suffered.
However, the court’s decision does not signify a verdict in their favor.
The cases will now return to a lower court for further litigation and a potential trial. To succeed in their lawsuits, Robson and Safechuck must provide evidence substantiating their claims against MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc.