On Thursday, a federal judge sided with the Estate of Michael Jackson by ruling that a suit again HBO by the Estate was valid to move forward. Following the release of HBO’s incendiary documentary Leaving Neverland earlier this year, the Estate sued HBO for violating a non-disparagement agreement from a 1992 contract. The contract was a part of the premium network’s deal for Jackson’s Dangerous concert film.
Judge George Wu tentatively dismissed HBO’s motion to throw the case out on the basis of the contract no longer applying. Theodore Boutrous, the leader of HBO’s team of lawyers argued in court against Wu’s decision. “It was filed to chill speech. It was filed to tell the world, ‘Don’t talk about child sex abuse.’… A company like HBO may be able to fight back and move forward. Others might not be able to do that.”
Wu himself acknowledged this saying, “you’re a big company, they’re a wealthy estate. It’s a clash of the titans,” Wu concluded.
Outside the courtroom, a co-executor of Jackson’s Estate named John Branca stated his belief that HBO is fighting to keep Jackson’s side of the story suppressed.
“I’ve never seen a media organization fight so hard to keep a secret,” Branca said. “We’re saying let’s get all the facts out there, not just two stories from two accusers with a financial interest.”
Bryan J. Freedman, one of the attorneys for Jackson’s Estate released a statement taking aim at the premium channel’s omission of what the Estate believes is essential information.
“HBO has tried everything possible to avoid having a trier of fact adjudicate their wrongdoing. If HBO believes its actions were proper then there is no reason for them to try and hide behind procedural technicalities to avoid an arbitration or a trial. Whether in an arbitration, federal court, state court or the court of appeal, the Estate of Michael Jackson will force HBO to be held accountable for its wrongful conduct. The Estate will never stop until justice has been obtained.”
HBO as a whole refused to comment too much on the matter. The network issued a simple statement, “We are waiting to see the Judge’s final decision.”