Michael Jackson estate can take private action against HBO over Leaving Neverland

Michael Jackson’s estate can take action against HBO over its documentary Leaving Neverland and allegations he sexually abused two boys, a court has ruled.

Unless the network appeals, the singer’s estate can now pursue private arbitration over the 2019 documentary, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday.

This means the case that HBO disparaged Jackson by airing claims he abused Wade Robson and James Safechuck will now be considered by an independent third party – outside of court – and largely away from public view.

Jackson's Neverland ranch near Santa Barbara, California
Image:Jackson’s Neverland ranch near Santa Barbara, California

Jackson’s estate had already sued the channel for $100m (£75m), arguing it broke a 1992 contract the star had with them.

It claims that when HBO broadcast Jackson’s Dangerous tour, the contract agreed it would not disparage him, Variety reports.

Estate attorneys Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir said in a statement: “In the court’s own words, HBO agreed that it would not make any disparaging remarks concerning Jackson.

“It’s time for HBO to answer for its violation of its obligations to Michael Jackson.”

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The network’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, argued the 27-year-old clause expired once each side fulfilled its obligations.

HBO also claims that Leaving Neverland is an important piece of journalism.

James Safechuck is pictured aged 10 with Jackson
Image:James Safechuck is pictured aged 10 with Jackson

Jackson’s family says the documentary was based on allegations made by two men who previously told authorities they weren’t molested by him.

But during the film, both men repeatedly accuse the star of grooming and molesting them at his Neverland ranch in California.

They have each tried to sue companies created by Jackson, but Mr Safechuck’s lawsuit was dismissed last month.

Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed has been filming the recent court hearings for a follow-up documentary.

Jackson died in 2009 at the age of 50.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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