Michael Jackson’s estate scored a legal victory that will allow it to pursue arbitration in the ongoing lawsuit over HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary.
As Variety reports, the late singer’s estate sued HBO for $100 million and argued that the documentary, which focuses on allegations that Jackson had sexually abused children, had broken a 27-year-old confidentiality clause from 1992’s Dangerous concert film. HBO has claimed the clause is irrelevant, and that the Jackson estate is attempting to silence victims of sexual abuse. The estate had a motion granted to take the dispute to arbitration by a lower court last year, which HBO subsequently appealed.
On Monday, the lower court’s ruling was upheld, even though the three-judge panel of the 9Th Circuit Court of Appeal said the suit could be “frivolous.” “The contract contained a broad arbitration clause that covers claims that HBO disparaged Jackson in violation of ongoing confidentiality obligations,” the panel ruled. “We may only identify whether the parties agreed to arbitrate such claims; it is for the arbitrator to decide whether those claims are meritorious.”
HBO’s attorney Theodore Boutrous has argued that the 1992 contract expired once each side fufilled what was expected of them. Jackson’s attorneys, meanwhile, praised Monday’s ruling. “An arbitration clause can still bind the parties, even if the parties fully performed the contract years ago,” the panel added. “The trial judge and now the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have unanimously rejected HBO’s arguments” they said. “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.”
The saga continues…