More than 14 years after Michael Jackson died, a pair of lawsuits accusing him of sexual abuse of minors have been revived. The lawsuits come from two men who say Jackson abused them as children. Their stories were featured in the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland.
The lawsuits name two corporations that Jackson founded, MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc., as defendants. The plaintiffs said the companies, of which Jackson was the sole shareholder and owner, failed in their duty to protect them from sexual abuse. A judge dismissed the suits in 2021, stating that the plaintiffs did not have valid claims under that theory because MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures were not similar to organizations like the Boy Scouts of America that are entrusted with young children’s care.
Dismissal overturned on appeal
But the California 2nd District Court of Appeal recently overturned the dismissal. A three-judge panel ruled that the plaintiffs can validly claim that MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures violated their legal duties towards them as boys. “A corporation that facilitates the sexual abuse of children by one of its employees is not excused from an affirmative duty to protect those children merely because it is solely owned by the perpetrator of the abuse,” the panel wrote. This restores litigation that first began in 2013-14 when the plaintiffs filed their lawsuits.
This decision does not mean the plaintiffs have won their case against MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures, but it could mean they will have their day in court. An attorney for Jackson’s estate disagreed with the 2nd District appellate court’s decision, but it’s unclear if the estate plans to appeal.
Patience for justice is often necessary
When a sexual abuse lawsuit involves a prominent person or multiple plaintiffs, it is not unusual for the litigation to take years to resolve. But patience (and representation from an experienced litigator) can pay off with justice for the victims.