Kansas residents who subscribe to HBO may be aware that the network has plans to air a controversial documentary about the deceased pop superstar Michael Jackson. “Leaving Neverland” is the account of two men who claim that Jackson molested them when they were children. Jackson’s relatives say that the documentary is little more than unsubstantiated propaganda, and attorneys hoping to prevent the film’s airing filed a lawsuit against HBO on Feb. 21 in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit stems from an agreement HBO entered into before airing a Michael Jackson concert in 1992. The agreement is said to include a non-disparagement provision. Attorneys familiar with the matter say that damages in the case could amount to $100 million or more. In the lawsuit, Jackson’s estate is petitioning to have the matter litigated through public arbitration.
Critics of the documentary say that HBO is ignoring a substantial amount of evidence that would cast doubt on the molestation accusations in the quest for higher ratings. Attorneys also question the integrity of the accusers by pointing out the money they are being paid to appear in the film. An HBO representative responding to news of the lawsuit said that the network was unbowed and would still be showing the documentary in two parts in early March.
Attorneys with experience in this area may seek to avoid contract disputes by ensuring that all of the parties involved understand their rights and responsibilities before agreements are signed and the language of potentially contentious clauses is clear and unambiguous. When disputes do occur, attorneys may strive to settle them through negotiation or via alternative approaches like arbitration or mediation to avoid bitter and ruinously expensive litigation.
Source: Variety, Michael Jackson Estate Sues HBO for Non-Disparagement Contract Breach, Gene Maddaus, Feb. 21, 2019