Michael Jackson’s sexual abuse accusers can now sue estate for millions as new law comes into force

Wade Robson and James Safechuck's appeals have been on hold for two years.

Two men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them as children can bring their lawsuits to trial thanks to an update in the law that came into effect on Wednesday (January 1).

Wade Robson and James Safechuck, whose accusations were featured in the documentary Leaving Neverland as well as in a 2013 lawsuit that was dismissed four years later, could find themselves back in court. Both men had appealed the 2017 decision to discharge their cases, which was due to a statute of limitations, but these appeals have since been on hold in the appellate court.

Now, according to Sky News, a change in the law means a new ruling could overturn the 2017 dismissals. A lower court had dismissed the lawsuits because, under California law, claims of childhood sexual assault had to be filed before an accuser’s 26th birthday.

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But a legal change, which came into effect on January 1, has extended the period until an accuser’s 40th birthday.

Neverland
Michael Jackson and James Safechuck in 1988

Should a trial be granted, Robson and Safechuck would be able to sue the Michael Jackson estate for millions of US dollars like they attempted to do so six years ago.

The estate, his family, and Jackson himself before he died in 2009 have denied all accusations of sexual misconduct levelled against him.

Safechuck and Robson’s lawyer, Vince Finaldi, said in a statement: “We are pleased that the court has recognised the strong protections California has put into place for sexual abuse victims under the state’s new law extending the statute of limitations.

“We look forward to sharing the facts of the terrible abuse of James Safechuck and Wade Robson with a jury.”

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A lawyer representing Jackson’s estate said he was confident both lawsuits would be dismissed.

“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,” lawyer Howard Weitzman said in a statement.

In other news, the estate of Michael Jackson has settled a 17-month dispute with Disney over an unauthorised TV documentary.

The Disney-owned US network ABC screened a documentary about Jackson, The Last Days Of Michael Jackson, in 2018. In May the same year, Jackson’s estate filed a lawsuit against Disney.

The lawsuit claimed the show used “substantial portions” of copyright material owned by Jackson’s estate without permission. This included Jackson’s music videos plus concert and documentary footage.

A spokesperson for Jackson’s estate told Rolling Stone: “The matter was amicably resolved.”

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