Sexual abuse cases against Michael Jackson's estate can be revived, court documents reveal

Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson. Photo credit: Getty Images

By Keith Allen, CNN

Wade Robson and James Safechuck – two men who have long alleged that the late Michael Jackson sexually abused them when they were children, and who were featured in the 2019 documentary "Leaving Neverland" – are now able to revive their since-dismissed lawsuits against Jackson's estate, according to a court opinion filed on Friday and obtained by CNN.

California's Second District Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that "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."

The summary of the ruling also stated "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 and Safechuck have both made allegations of abuse on the part of Jackson towards them when they were minors, after initially coming into contact with the entertainer professionally.

Safechuck, at age eight, appeared with Jackson in a 1986 Pepsi commercial; and Robson, at age five, after winning a dance-alike contest when Jackson performed in Brisbane, Australia.

In "Leaving Neverland," they each laid out in strikingly similar fashion how Jackson's alleged sexual abuse of them gradually escalated over the course of a number of years, accompanied by his alleged pressuring for them not to divulge what was happening. ("Leaving Neverland" was an HBO documentary. HBO, like CNN and Newshub, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

Jackson died in 2009, but the plaintiffs are seeking damages from two entertainment companies that, over much of their existence, were solely owned and operated by Jackson.

The cases, which were consolidated in the appeals court, will now go back to trial.

Jonathan Steinsapir, attorney for the Estate of Michael Jackson, said in a statement to CNN, "We are disappointed with the Court's decision," later adding, "We remain fully confident that Michael is innocent of these allegations."

Vince William Finaldi, lawyer for Safechuck and Robson, said in a statement shared with CNN, "We are pleased but not surprised that the appellate court overturned" the previous rulings, which he said were "incorrect" and "against California law and would have set a dangerous precedent that endangered children throughout state and country. We eagerly look forward to a trial on the merits."