Two men who claimed they were se3ually abused as children by Pop King Michael Jackson have been given hope that their long-running lawsuit against the late singer’s companies could be revived.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck both appeared in the hugely controversial 2019 HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland.Robson, an Australian dancer and choreographer, now 40, met Jackson when he was five years old. He went on to appear in three Jackson music videos.
His lawsuit alleged that Jackson molested him over a seven-year period.
Safechuck, a California-born writer, now 45, said in his suit that he was nine when he met Jackson while filming a Pepsi commercial. He said Jackson called him often and lavished him with gifts before moving on to a series of incidents of sexual abuse.
Robson filed suit in 2013, and Safechuck joined the following year. The cases were dismissed in 2021.
The judge who dismissed the suits found that MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc., two corporations for which Jackson was the sole owner and lone shareholder, could not be expected to function like the Boy Scouts or a church where a child in their care could expect their protection.
Yet on Wednesday, an appeals court judge in Los Angeles suggested at a pre-trial hearing that the case could be reopened.
Jackson estate lawyer, Jonathan Steinsapir, pushed back against the tentative decision by California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal.
The court’s reasoning, Steinsapir argued, ‘would require low-level employees to confront their supervisor and call them pedophiles.’
Holly Boyer, an attorney for Robson and Safechuck, said workers ought to have that responsibility. ‘We do require that employees of the entity take those steps, because what we are talking about is the sexual abuse of children,’ she told the three-judge panel in the videoconference hearing.
‘What we are talking about here is seven- and 10-year-old children who are entirely ill-equipped to protect themselves from their mentor, Michael Jackson.’
Boyer added that the boys ‘were left alone in this lion’s den by the defendant’s employees. An affirmative duty to protect and to warn is correct.’
Steinsapir said evidence that has been gathered in the cases, which have not reached trial, showed that the parents had no expectation of Jackson’s employees acting as monitors.
He said a deposition from Robson’s mother showed she did not even know the corporations existed when she first brought her seven-year-old son into the pop star’s presence.
‘They were not looking to Michael Jackson’s companies for protection from Michael Jackson,’ Steinsapir said.
Steinsapir said the assertion in the lawsuit and the court’s tentative decision that the corporations had engaged in negligent hiring was absurd when the person doing the hiring was the alleged offender.
‘Any person that might be prone to criminal tendency has a duty not to hire himself?’ Steinsapir said.
The Jackson estate has adamantly and repeatedly denied that he abused either of the boys, and has emphasized that Robson testified at Jackson’s 2005 criminal trial, where Jackson was acquitted, that he had not been abused, and Safechuck said the same to authorities.
The three judges hearing the case Wednesday did not make an immediate ruling. Justice John Wiley, said it ‘seems to me these corporations were in an excellent position to prevent these injuries.’
They could have required a chaperone to be present for the children for example, Wiley said.