Michael Jackson’s estate is one step closer to going into arbitration with HBO.
On Monday, the estate of Michael Jackson was handed a victory in its battle over the 2019 HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland”.
The Jackson estate is suing HBO for $100 million because of the documentary, which accused the late singer of sexually abusing two young boys.
The suit argues that the documentary violated a 27-year-old non-disparagement clause from a 1992 concert film from the artist’s “Dangerous” tour. HBO argued that the clause is irrelevant to the present dispute and accused the Jackson estate of seeking to silence victims of sexual abuse.
Last year the estate was granted the motion to take the dispute to arbitration by a lower court, as per the contract. HBO appealed the ruling, but on Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the contract disagreement between the Jackson estate and HBO cannot be thrown out, upholding the lower court’s ruling.
“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.”
Jackson’s attorneys, Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir, issued a statement praising the ruling.
“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.”
This ruling doesn’t mean HBO has to pay the Jackson estate, it means the dispute can now go to contract arbitration, unless HBO wants to appeal to the Supreme Court.