California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
from judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Nos. BC545264, BC508502. Mitchell L. Beckloff, Judge.
Reversed and remanded.
Stewart & Finaldi, John C. Manly, Vince W. Finaldi,
Alexander E. Cunny; Esner, Chang & Boyer, Holly N. Boyer
and Steffi A. Jose for Plaintiffs and Appellants.
Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, Howard L.
Weitzman, Jonathan P. Steinsapir, Aaron C. Liskin, Katherine
T. Kleindienst; Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland and
Alana H. Rotter for Defendants and Respondents.
BIGELOW, P. J.
appeals involve allegations of a disturbing, years-long
pattern of child sexual abuse by international superstar
Michael Jackson. The truth of those allegations is not at
issue here. Instead, we must decide whether plaintiffs Wade
Robson and James Safechuck waited too long to sue, not
Jackson himself (who died over a decade ago), but two of
Jackson's corporations, MJJ Productions, Inc. and MJJ
Ventures, Inc., for their involvement in Jackson's
alleged abuse of Robson and Safechuck.
timeliness issue had been litigated under a prior version of
Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1 (section 340.1) that
required claims of childhood sexual abuse against third-party
nonperpetrators to be filed by a victim's 26th birthday
unless the claims fell within a narrow exception. Robson and
Safechuck sued after their 26th birthdays, and the trial
court concluded their claims were untimely because they did
not fall within this exception. Effective January 1, 2020,
however, section 340.1 was amended to allow a victim to bring
claims of childhood sexual assault against third-party
nonperpetrators until the victim's 40th birthday. (§
340.1, as amended by Stats 2019, Ch. 861, §1.) Safechuck
and Robson both sued before their 40th birthdays, and the
corporations do not dispute the revised statute applies to
their nonfinal cases. We reverse the judgments in the
corporations' favor and remand for further proceedings.
We decline to address any other issues.
has appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment
to the corporations, while Safechuck has appealed judgment
after the sustaining of a demurrer. Both cases present the
same basic legal question involving the timeliness of their
claims, so we have consolidated their appeals for the
purposes of this opinion.
was born in 1982 in Australia. Robson claims that starting in
1990 and continuing over the next seven years until he was
14, Jackson sexually molested him. According to Robson, the
abuse involved fondling, kissing, giving and receiving oral
sex, and one incident during which Jackson attempted to
engage in anal sex with him. During the years of abuse,
Jackson instructed Robson not to tell anyone about the sexual
acts between them.
died on June 25, 2009. Robson filed the instant lawsuit in
May 2013, when he was 30 years old. As of the operative
fourth amended complaint, he named Jackson's corporations
MJJ Productions, Inc. and MJJ Ventures, Inc. as third-party
nonperpetrator defendants. MJJ Productions was formed in 1979
as one of Jackson's “loan-out corporations”
furnishing his services as an artist. MJJ Ventures was formed
in 1991 to hold Jackson's interest in a joint venture
between him and his recording label, which exploits various
artists' sound recordings. Robson's complaint alleged
claims against the corporations for (1) intentional
infliction of emotional distress; (2) negligence; (3)
negligent supervision; (4) negligent retention/hiring; (5)
negligent failure to warn, train, or educate; and (6) breach
of fiduciary duty.
corporations moved for summary judgment on statute of
limitations grounds pursuant to the version of section 340.1
then in effect. The trial court granted the motion because
Robson filed his claims after his 26th birthday and they did
not fall within the narrow exception extending the time to
file claims against third-party nonperpetrators.
was born in 1978. He met Jackson in late 1986 or early 1987
while working on a commercial featuring Jackson. In 1988,
10-year-old Safechuck and his mother spent six months with
Jackson on tour. Safechuck alleged that during the tour and
continuing through 1992, Jackson abused him hundreds of
times. According to Safechuck, Jackson kissed Safechuck's
genitals, had Safechuck rub and suck Jackson's nipples as
he masturbated, had Safechuck “bend over on all fours
and then [Jackson] would grab [Safechuck's] butt cheeks
and spread them open with one hand, and masturbate himself
with the other, ...