HBO, Michael Jackson estate clash in legal battlefield over ‘Leaving Neverland’

The inevitable litigation fight between the King of Pop's estate and the network is emerging, and it's beginning with both trying to shut each other down

In this April 18, 1995, file photo, pop star Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, behind him at left, walk with children that were invited guests at his Neverland Ranch home in Santa Ynez, Calif. The co-executor of Jackson's estate says he's confident the late superstar's supporters will be able to protect his legacy and brand in the wake of HBO’s "Leaving Neverland," a documentary detailing allegations of sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) thegrio.com
In this April 18, 1995, file photo, pop star Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, behind him at left, walk with children that were invited guests at his Neverland Ranch home in Santa Ynez, Calif. The co-executor of Jackson's estate says he's confident the late superstar's supporters will be able to protect his legacy and brand in the wake of HBO’s "Leaving Neverland," a documentary detailing allegations of sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

HBO is facing a $100 million lawsuit from the Michael Jackson estate over the release of the Leaving Neverland documentary, but the premium television provider is fighting back against the legal action.

Leaving Neverland hit HBO in early March and detailed the experiences of Wade Robson and James Safechuck who allegedly were sexually abused by Jackson as children. The documentary has once again sparked discussion of Jackson’s history and also received staunch resistance from the estate and fans.

READ MORE: Michael Jackson estate hits back at ‘Leaving Neverland’

A memo of opposition was filed by HBO lawyers Daniel Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers and Theodore Boutrous of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, detailing what they say are wrongful attempt to pain HBO’s efforts as defamation.

“Optimum Productions and John Branca and John McClain, in their capacities as co-executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson, ask this Court to order arbitration of a poorly disguised and legally barred posthumous defamation claim against Home Box Office, Inc. that arises from HBO’s exercise of its First Amendment rights to exhibit an expressive work on an issue of public concern—the documentary Leaving Neverland,” the memo reads.

Deadline details the lawsuit cites the petitioner’s attempt to use a 26-year-old confidentiality agreement in a rider “to bolster their publicity campaign against the documentary.”

READ MORE: Michael Jackson estate SLAMS ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary that alleges MJ was a sexual predator

In other words, the petitioners are attempting to do whatever is needed to silence and bury Leaving Neverland. This follows the attempt to convince Richard Plepler, a former executive at HBO, to cancel the release of the film. After the effort was futile, the estate took the matter to the Los Angeles Superior Court in an attempt to stop the film. The case was transitioned to federal court, but legal representation for the Jacksons hope to have it transitioned back to L.A. Superior Court.

But HBO is remaining strong in their battle against the lawsuit.

“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 Leaving Neverland premiere in the United States was watched by 1.29 million viewers. A special hosted by Oprah Winfrey followed the documentary, in which she interviewed Robson, Safechuck and producer, and director Dan Reed.

READ MORE: Jackson family says Oprah interview with Michael’s accusers is ‘ultimate betrayal’

SHARE THIS ARTICLE