HBO Denies Breach of Contract Claim from Michael Jackson's Estate

TOKYO - 1987:  Pop Star Michael Jackson performs onstage in 1987 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
By George Khoury, Esq. on June 21, 2019 10:00 AM

The $100 million lawsuit filed by the estate of Michael Jackson against HBO over the "Leaving Neverland" documentary is heating up.

The estate claims that HBO is in violation of a 1992 contract prohibiting saying disparaging things about Michael Jackson, specifically his 1992 concert tour. HBO denies that it breached the contract at all. In short, in "Leaving Neverland," it is alleged that Jackson sexually abused young boys during that 1992 concert tour. In the lawsuit, it is alleged that HBO signed an agreement with a non-disparagement clause.

Documentary Disparagement

The HBO documentary series contains testimonials from two of Michael Jackson's alleged child abuse victims.

However, the estate asserts that the two victims are lying, and have previously testified under oath that Jackson did nothing wrong. The estate blames HBO for failing to fact-check and claims that by airing the documentary series, the network is violating the 1992 agreement that allowed it to air a Michael Jackson concert back in the 90s.

The network claims that the 1992 agreement is unrelated and too far disconnected in time from the new documentary. And at this stage, it is unclear how the court will respond. Non-disparagement clauses are legal and enforceable. But notably, the estate is trying to force the case into arbitration, while HBO seems to be pushing for the matter to be heard in court.

In the end, it's likely that the estate will only be able to get damages if the court does agree that the HBO's producing or airing of the documentary violated the 27-year-old contract. Unfortunately for the estate, the $100 million damages demand might be a bit of a tall order, given that Michael Jackson is deceased and his reputation as an alleged child abuser is plastered all over the web and Wikipedia.

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