A California appeals court issued the decision on Friday after a new state law went into effect expanding the statute of limitations on child sexual-abuse cases, giving victims until age 40 to file civil lawsuits. The previous limit had been 26.
"The truth of those allegations is not at issue here," the ruling said. "Instead, we must decide whether the plaintiffs waited too long to sue, not Jackson himself, but two of Jackson's corporations."
The ruling revived a previous lawsuit brought by Jackson’s accusers, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, against MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures Inc. It reversed a lower court’s ruling that said the men waited too long to file their lawsuits under then-existing state law. Robson and Safechuck were adults when they filed their lawsuits in 2013 and 2014, years after they alleged Jackson abused them.
“Safechuck and Robson both sued before their 40th birthdays, and the corporations do not dispute the revised statute applies to their nonfinal cases,” the ruling said. “We reverse the judgments in the corporations’ favor and remand for further proceedings.”
Safechuck, 41, and Robson, 37, were featured in the controversial HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” in which they detailed graphic allegations of childhood abuse by Jackson during out-of-town trips and long stays at his California ranch, “Neverland.”
Their legal battle against the estate of Jackson, who died in 2009, began in 2013.
“They’re very pleased,” Vince Finaldi, the attorney representing Safechuck and Robson, told FOX Business. “They’re pleased because all they have wanted is an opportunity to present their case to a jury, a real jury, to a formal court and trial rules.”
The Jackson estate has vehemently denied the accusations, calling the two men “opportunists,” and in February, sued HBO for violating a non-disparagement agreement.
An attorney for the estate, Howard Weitzman, responded to the decision by saying that the lawsuits “absurdly claim that Michael’s employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened.”
“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,” Weitzman said in a statement to FOX Business.
The estate also pointed to denials by Robson at the pop star’s 2005 criminal trial that he’d been abused, and to similar denunciations by Safechuck in a statement he gave to prosecutors during the 1993 investigation.
Since then, Safechuck and Robson, who were not paid for their participation in the documentary, have insisted that they lied. (In an interview with Rolling Stone, Robson and Safechuck addressed why they had defended Jackson, saying he manipulated them into falling in love with him).
“There are conflicting feelings,” Safechuck said at the time. “And that’s part of what makes it so difficult was, you love him and he’s hurting you and you don’t quite understand that. How can somebody who you think is so good be so bad for you?”
It’s unclear when the trial will take place, but Finaldi said it could be in as soon as five months.
“We’re going to a jury with this, and we’re going to get some answers, and we’re going to get some finality to this,” he said. “So they better get ready.”