‘Leaving Neverland’ case to remain open as judge rejects Jackson estate’s arbitration request

HBO faced legal action ahead of the film's premiere earlier this year

HBO has won the first round of Michael Jackson‘s estate’s Leaving Neverland lawsuit, it has been reported.

Directed by Dan Reed, the documentary focuses on testimony by Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 41, who both claim that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children.

Ahead of its premiere in March, Jackson’s estate sued the HBO network while protesting the late star’s innocence. Claiming that his accusers are seeking financial gain, the complaint to Los Angeles Superior Court read: “Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself, and the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are.”

Now, it has been reported that the case will remain open in court. Following a hearing last week, a federal judge has rejected a motion from Jackson’s estate to throw the case to an arbitrator.

Leaving Neverland

‘Leaving Neverland’

The plaintiff alleges that Leaving Neverland constitutes a breach of a non-disparagement clause in an agreement that is 27 years old. It’s said that the deal provided the network with rights to air a Michael Jackson live show around the time of his 1991 album, ‘Dangerous’

The estate doesn’t want to litigate in open court, but instead invoked an arbitration clause in the old deal, aiming to resolve the conflict before the American Arbitration Association.

HBO previously claimed that the decades-old deal had expired, and therefore does not cover the Leaving Neverland film. The broadcasters hit out at legal action set in motion by Jackson’s estate, claiming it was a “transparent effort to bolster their publicity campaign against the documentary”.

Michael Jackson denied any wrongdoing before his death in 2009.

Meanwhile, pop star Aaron Carter has recently spoken out on how Jackson behaved inappropriately “one time” during their friendship. The singer, who was friends with the King of Pop when he was a teenager, had previously slammed accusations made in Leaving Neverland.