Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Appeals court sends ‘Leaving Neverland’ fight to arbitration

HboA federal appeals court in California ruled that a lawsuit filed bye Michael Jackson's estate can go forward in private arbitration. Michael Jackson's estate filed the lawsuit over the HBO documentary about two of MJ's sex abuse accusers. 

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of two lower  courts, ruling in favor of Michael Jackson's estate. 

Without further appeals, the case will go to a private arbitrator, which is required by the 1992 contract that the estate's lawsuit sought to enforce. 

In the event of private arbitration, the proceedings will be kept out of public view. MJ's attorneys said that they would like for the proceedings to be as open as possible.

The agreement between Jackson and HBO, prohibited the latter from disparaging Jackson in any way, which the estate felt was done by airing the molestation allegations of Wade Robson and James Safechuck in "Leaving Neverland."

“In the court’s own words, HBO ‘agreed that it would not make any disparaging remarks concerning Jackson,’” estate attorneys Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir said in a statement. “It’s time for HBO to answer for its violation of its obligations to Michael Jackson.”

HBO argued that the provisions was no longer valid since both sides had performed their parts of the agreement. Jackson's family has alleged that the documentary's allegations are false and came from two men "who previously told authorities they were not molested." 

See Andrew Dalton, Appeals court sends ‘Leaving Neverland’ fight to arbitration, Associated Press, December 14, 2020. 

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  


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