Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck now can sue the late King of Pop’s estate.
A new California state law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows victims of childhood sexual abuse until the age of 40 (up from 26) to file civil lawsuits.
The two men, who have accused Jackson of sexually abusing them when they were children, were the subject of an Emmy Award-winning HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland.
According to Rolling Stone, the new law also extended the statute of limitations on a provision that stated victims could sue third-party entities tied to the alleged abuser that either knew, or should have known, that abuse was going on, or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening.
The ruling states: “The corporations do not dispute these revisions apply to plaintiffs’ nonfatal cases still pending on appeal, rendering their claims timely. We agree and find their dispute under the previous statutory provisions to be moot.”
On Friday, a California appeals court overturned a 2017 ruling that forbade Robson and Safechuck to sue MJJ Productions, Inc. or MJJ Ventures, Inc. because their suits hadn’t been filed within the statute of limitations—and because neither corporate entity could be held liable for the pop music icon’s alleged actions.
“We’re pleased the appellate court has affirmed the strong protections that California has for sexual abuse victims and recognized the extended statute of limitations that it provides,” their attorney, Vince Finaldi said.
In response to the new ruling, Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman reiterated that the corporations are exempt from any legal proceedings.
“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,” he said in a statement. “The ruling was the result of a change in the law signed by Governor Newsom that extends the time for genuine victims to file claims. The Court of Appeal specifically did not address the truth of these false allegations, and we are confident that both lawsuits will be dismissed and that Michael Jackson will be vindicated once again.”
Reuters reported that the appeals court said it was not ruling on the truth of the allegations by the men—who say they were befriended by Jackson and were abused by him from the ages of 7 and 10 in the early 1990s—but said they involved accusations of “a disturbing years-long pattern of child sexual abuse by international superstar Michael Jackson.”
The “Beat It” singer, who died in 2009, was acquitted at a 2005 trial in California on charges of molesting a different 13-year-old boy.
During that trial, Robson testified that Jackson never molested him, and Safechuck similarly told authorities that Jackson never abused him.