A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Friday (Sept. 20) that HBO must participate in arbitration with the Estate of Michael Jackson over the Emmy-winning Leaving Neverland documentary. U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu granted the request by Michael Jackson’s estate requiring HBO be bound by a 1992 arbitration agreement rather than allowing the lawsuit to continue in the federal court system.
In the unusually public proceedings to come, the estate will argue that the documentary violated a 1992 contract that HBO signed to televise Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour concert in Bucharest, Romania. The 1992 agreement stated that “HBO shall not make any disparaging remarks concerning [Michael Jackson] … or do any act that may harm or disparage or cause to lower in esteem the reputation of [Jackson.]” In their, and many others’ opinions, the documentary has severely violated those terms.
Upon learning about the film, Jackson’s estate filed a $100 million lawsuit alleging the documentary harmed the King of Pop’s legacy. HBO subsequently filed an anti-SLAPP motion alleging their opposing entity was trying to silence constitutional rights of free speech by attempting to compel them to arbitrate. Despite their efforts, the court ruled against the production company and they will now be forced to arbitrate in public unless further action is taken that may eventually place the case in front of the United States Supreme Court.