HBO dismisses Michael Jackson Estate's 'poorly conceived' $100 million lawsuit over 'Leaving Neverland'
HBO's explosive documentary 'Leaving Neverland' came out months ago in January, but its repercussions are being felt even today. The network and the Michael Jackson Estate have been locking horns over the documentary ever since it hit screens, with the estate alleging that the network is helping the accusers in the film, Wade Robson and James Safechuck make money. The two men have accused Jackson of sexual assault and have detailed their alleged suffering in the film.
The estate sued HBO for $100 million about two months ago saying that it was "a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself". In a new development, HBO has dismissed the claim saying that "Petitioners’ effort to ‘publicly’ arbitrate these issues appears to be part of a transparent effort to bolster their publicity campaign against the documentary, but that undertaking is as poorly conceived as the claims themselves".
The defendants further said in a filing: "This Court should deny Petitioners’ Motion, find the 1992 Agreement does not contain a valid agreement to arbitrate the instant dispute and confirm that any claim that Petitioners might seek to bring in any forum against HBO over 'Leaving Neverland' based on the 1992 Agreement would not be actionable."
The network has also maintained that it did not give away any information to the filmmakers of the documentary during the 1992 agreement between Jackson and the network for a concert special. The estate is allegedly using that deal as a legal wedge in the suit. "Petitioners do not, and cannot, allege that any information HBO obtained during the course of performing the 1992 Agreement, let alone any confidential information or trade secrets, was provided to the filmmakers," the filing said, "Thus, by the express language of the contract itself, 'Leaving Neverland' is categorically outside the scope of the Confidentiality Provisions."
At the time of the lawsuit, the estate's lawyers had alleged, "They are trained actors who made up their stories years after Jackson died, in order to sue the estate, and try to take hundreds of millions of dollars from Jackson’s rightful heirs, his three children."
One of the lawyers representing the Jackson Estate, Bryan Freedman told Deadline on Thursday, "HBO’s opposition clearly shows that they are afraid to have this matter adjudicated. The Jackson Estate wants an arbitration open to the public for all to see. If HBO thinks the contract does not apply or is expired then why are they opposing adjudicating it? The reason why is because they know they were complicit in this one-sided farce of a money grab that clearly violates the agreement. Now they are trying to delay the inevitable beating that they will suffer when this matter is adjudicated," he said before adding, "It won’t work."
The case will reportedly be fought out in person in front of Judge Wu on May 23.
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