Michael Jackson’s estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO over the upcoming Leaving Neverland documentary set to air next month. Jackson’s estate accuses the cable network of breaching a non-disparagement contract made with the King of Pop back in 1992.
"HBO breached its agreement not to disparage Michael Jackson by producing and selling to the public a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend him," Howard Weitzman, attorney for the Jackson estate said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit, according to NBC News.
The statement adds that HBO should have “ensured that Leaving Neverland was properly sourced, fact-checked and a fair and balanced representation.”
Leaving Neverland features alleged accounts from Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom accuse Jackson of molesting them when they were minors. Robson, who attended Jackson’s funeral in 2009, previously testified in 2005 that Jackson never molested him. In 2013, Robson sued the estate claiming abuse. Safechuck also sued for similar allegations in 2014. Both lawsuits were dismissed because the statute of limitations had passed. The two men hope that the film will “educate the public about how abuse like this happens.”
The estate claims that the amount of damages potentially caused to Jackson’s legacy “could exceed $100 million should HBO success in the damage it is intending to cause.” Jackson’s estate also believes the King of Pop's accusers are using HBO as part of their “litigation strategy.”
HBO plans to air the film, as scheduled. In a statement responding to the legal complaint, the network called out Jackson’s estate for going to “desperate lengths” to undermine the documentary. “Our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”