A feast for Legal Eagles.
After the initial airing of HBO's highly controversial Leaving Neverland documentary, the Jackson Estate was quick to strike back, readying a $100 million dollar lawsuit against the network. The basis of their lawsuit labeled Dan Reed's film a "reprehensible disparagement" of the late singer, and moved to have the case publically arbitrated. Now, Deadline reports that HBO has taken a hardline stance against the Jackson Estate, as revealed in the court documents below. Warning: the legal-speak flows heavy.
"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,” reads HBO's opposition memo. They also move to dismiss the Estate's claims, citing their evidence as non-credible. "Petitioners’ purported basis for their claims is a single non-disparagement sentence buried in a confidentiality rider to a more than 26-year-old expired and entirely unrelated contract. “Petitioners’ effort to ‘publicly’ arbitrate these issues appears to be part of a transparent effort to bolster their publicity campaign against the documentary, but that undertaking is as poorly conceived as the claims themselves."
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Despite HBO's resolve, the Jackson Estate remains adamant in their efforts. "HBO’s opposition clearly shows that they are afraid to have this matter adjudicated,” explains lawyer Bryan Freedman. “The Jackson Estate wants an arbitration open to the public for all to see. If HBO thinks the contract does not apply or is expired then why are they opposing adjudicating it? The reason why is because they know they were complicit in this one-sided farce of a money grab that clearly violates the agreement."
Clearly, this one will not be resolving anytime soon. As it stands, there's a lot to unpack, and the case will move to an in-person hearing with judge Wu (some say he's nothing to fu*k with) on May 23rd. Where do you stand?