In a court case that seemed to manage to stay largely under the radar until this verdict announcement, the Michael Jackson estate has won an appeal against HBO over the broadcast of the documentary Leaving Neverland.

The documentary famously implicated Jackson in the alleged sexual abuse of two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The documentary was directed by British filmmaker Dan Reed and broadcast in 2019 on HBO and on Channel 4 in the UK.

However the Jackson estate claimed this breached a prior agreement stemming from HBO’s 1992 broadcast of the Jackson concert movie Dangerous. At the time, HBO had agreed to a non-disparagement clause so this opened the door to the $100 million lawsuit.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the Jackson estate’s appeal. They did comment that the suit was “frivolous” but will now push the case to be settled by private arbitration.

In their ruling they commented:

“The contract contained a broad arbitration clause that covers claims that HBO disparaged Jackson in violation of ongoing confidentiality obligations. We may only identify whether the parties agreed to arbitrate such claims; it is for the arbitrator to decide whether those claims are meritorious.”

The estate’s attorneys, Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir, made their own statement:

“In the court’s own words, HBO agreed that it would not make any disparaging remarks concerning Jackson. It’s time for HBO to answer for its violation of its obligations to Michael Jackson.”

HBO has argued that the non-disparagement clause is no longer relevant, and has accused the Jackson estate of trying to silence the accusers. In a clear sign that some people just won’t quit, filmaker Reed, who also made the feature documentaries Terror In Mumbai and the BAFTA-winning The Pedophile Hunter, is filming the court hearings for a follow-up film.

Everybody better lawyer up!