** Updated June 26, 2015. Scroll down to read the updated section (title highlighted in red)
You probably heard Robson’s late probate claim against MJ Estate has been recently dismissed. However he also has a civil case against MJ Companies. Civil case has been initially brought against Doe defendants. In his second amended complaint Robson named Doe 2 and Doe 3 as MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. Estate demurred to the second amended complaint. Judge granted that demurrer request of the corporate defendants but gave Robson the chance to amend his complaint. Robson served his third amended complaint on December 16, 2014. However the online court system doesn’t show this document and therefore we don’t know much about the changes Robson made to his third complaint.
Once a complaint is filed, the legal steps to follow are (1) a demurrer motion (by estate), (2) an opposition to demurrer (by Robson), (3) a reply to opposition (by Estate), (4) a hearing and (5) a ruling by the judge. You will find details of each of these steps and I will update this post with more information as it becomes available.
1.Estate’s demurrer to third amended complaint - Filed March 10, 2015
Previously wrote about it here: http://dailymichael.com/lawsuits/robson-v-estate/294-round-2-at-robson-civil-case
Unfortunately the document doesn’t provide much detail about the specific changes Robson made to his third amended complaint. From the second amended complaint we know that Robson had one single claim for childhood sexual abuse. In his third amended complaint we learn, he listed 7 causes of action and only 4 of them applies to MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. We learn first cause of action is childhood sexual abuse, fifth cause of action is childhood sexual abuse-negligence, sixth cause of action is childhood sexual abuse- negligent infliction of emotional distress and seventh cause of action is childhood sexual abuse- breach of fiduciary duty.
Estate’s main demurrer argument focuses on statute of limitations. Normally general statute of limitations would be 1 year from when the events happened or if the party is a minor within 1 year of turning 18 – in other words until age 19. So according to this general rule, statute of limitations would end when Robson turned 19 at 2001. The exception to this general statute of limitations is 340.1 rule which extends the statute of limitations under some conditions. 340.1 states the actual perpetrator can be sued anytime within the 3 years of discovery of injury regardless of the plaintiff’s age. However for third parties and entities, the statute of limitations ends when the plaintiff turns 26. The exception to age 26 rule, requires the third party/entities know about the unlawful sexual conduct of the employee/agent/etc., have control over the actions of the perpetrator and ability to take actions to stop similar acts in the future but failed to do so. This exception also requires perpetrator’s access to the victim should arise out of perpetrators employment with the third party.
Ivy’s note: The best example to understand this age 26 exception is church and priests. Perpetrator priest gets access to his victims through his employment/job. Church has the power to hire and fire priests – hence they have the ability to stop future abuse. Therefore if the church is alerted to sexual abuse and did nothing, they would be found liable and there won’t be any age limitation or deadline to bring such lawsuit.
Robson’s first cause of action is “childhood sexual abuse”. Estate argues there’s no claim that MJJ Productions or MJJ Ventures committed childhood sexual abuse. They argue that the corporations aren’t real persons and law Robson cited doesn’t apply to them.
As for the other causes of action, Estate argues they are time barred because Robson is over 26 and he did not and could not successfully argue the exception to age 26 rule. Estate states to successfully claim an exception, Robson needs to show (a) Robson was exposed to MJ as an inherent part of the environment created by the relationship between MJ and MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures , (b) MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures was in a position to exercise control over MJ and (c) MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures knew or had reason to know unlawful sexual conduct. Estate states Robson did not and could not claim these required conditions.
Estate continues to explain Robson was fascinated with MJ even before he met him and his fascination was due to MJ’s fame. Robson claims they first came to California independent of Michael. Later they were invited to the recording studio and Neverland – all of which had nothing to do with MJJ Productions or Ventures. Although Robson later cites his and his mother’s work relationship with MJJ Productions and Ventures, Estate argues this is not enough. According to Robson’s claims, his alleged abuse predates his employment with MJJ Productions and/or Ventures.
Secondly Estate argues MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures was not in a position to exercise control over MJ. Robson himself states MJ was the owner and president of the corporations and claims MJ directed the corporate defendants about what to do – such as MJ directed the corporate defendants to hire Robson and his mother. Estate points the absurdity of claiming MJ owned the Corporations; MJ was the president of the Corporations but then claiming Corporations controlled MJ.
Finally Estate argues MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures did not know about any alleged sexual abuse. Estate discusses the law that requires knowledge of the perpetrator’s unlawful sexual conduct and suspicion of abuse is not enough. Estate states Robson did not allege Corporations to know about any unlawful sexual conduct between 1990 and 1993. Estate argues even 1993 Chandler allegations wouldn’t be enough to satisfy “knew or had reason to know” any unlawful sexual conduct.
Therefore MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures ask the demurrer to be sustained without leave to amend.
2. Robson’s opposition to Estate’s demurrer – Filed June 17, 2015
Robson starts his opposition by explaining demurrer only determines legal sufficiency of a claim and judge is required to accept all the claims as true during the demurrer phase. Demurrer is not about determining the truth of the allegations.
Robson has filed his claims after his 26th birthday. In order to bring a case against MJ companies Robson has to satisfy 3 conditions : MJJ Productions/ MJJ Ventures “knew or had reason to know that their employee/volunteer/ representative/agent MJ has engaged in unlawful sexual conduct and MJJ Productions/ MJJ Ventures failed to take steps to avoid the unlawful sexual conduct in the future. If these three conditions are satisfied, Robson has to file a lawsuit with 3 years Robson discovers the injury from the sexual abuse.
Robson claims in his third amended complaint he satisfied these three conditions. Some of his “facts” are mentioned in his opposition document. (Note: As judge has to accept all claims as true during demurrer phase, Robson claims are referred as “facts”. It doesn’t mean they are true, they are just what Robson alleges.)
If you look over the document posted above, you would see all of the names are redacted. Suzy from Michael Jackson Allegations and Lynande from Michael Jackson Vindictation V2.0 have been helping me to decipher the redacted names. They are the experts in 1993 & 2005 allegations/ trial.
As for the “knew or had reason to know their their employee/volunteer/ representative/ agent has engaged in unlawful sexual conduct” part, Robson seems to rely on Quindoy (claims of witnessing MJ with Safechuck and with Robson in a car). Claims of Charli Michaels and Orietta Murdock are also repeated. Furthermore Robson states at least by 1993 MJ Companies knew about the alleged behavior as Chandler filed a civil lawsuit. Robson claims his alleged abuse continued after 1993.
There’s also extensive mention of Norma Staikos. Robson alleges that Norma Staikos was aware of MJ’s behavior, made some statements about such behavior; Staikos had control over Neverland and even had some control over MJ. For the some control claim, Robson claims Staikos fired someone (name redacted) against MJ’s wishes. Therefore they claim Staikos had a great deal of influence on MJ’s business and personal affairs and was in a position to control MJ and stop the alleged abuse. Overall Robson argues all he needed to show that the companies had “some control” over MJ and he satisfied that requirement.
Robson has an issue with Estate’s statements that MJ was the sole shareholder, there was no other officer, director or owner for MJJ Productions/ MJJ Ventures and MJ had “absolute control” over the companies. Robson lawyers state they did not plead this and Estate cannot introduce new information/facts in their demurrer.
** Update 3. Estate’s reply to Robson’s opposition - Filed June 23, 2015
Estate starts their reply by stating all of the cases Robson cited were sustained without leave to amend (dismissed). In other words Robson could not show a single case that survived demurrer to support his position.
Estate then answers several of Robson’s claims from his opposition. Robson had claimed he was introduced to MJ in 1987 through a dance competition run by MJJ Productions. Estate states that Robson does not claim any abuse in 1987. He won the competition, met with MJ, danced on stage at a concert and he and his mother spent a few hours visiting MJ at his hotel the next day. Estate states neither MJ nor MJJ Productions ever tried to get in touch with Robson again. It was Robson’s mother who reached out to MJ 2+ years later when Robson and his family were visiting California. In relevant law examples a child gets exposed to an abusive priest/teacher etc. through the church/school. Estate argues this is not the case here and Robson’s mother did not attempt to contact MJ as a result of the relationship between MJ and MJ Companies.
Estate also questions what kind of “duty” Robson claims MJJ Productions should had in regards to this dance competition. Estate point out this is another problem with Robson’s complaint: what does Robson alleges that the MJ Companies should or should not do?
Estate continues that Robson has not alleged Norma Staikos or companies had “knowledge or notice of past sexual conduct” as of 1987 or 1990. Estate mentions only thing Robson mentions was one reference to “gossip among Neverland staff”, that’s all. (Ivy's note: Estate's totally unredacted reply and mention of Norma Staikos confirm our previous attempts to decipher Robson's redacted opposition.)
Estate then addresses Robson’s claims about MJ Companies having “some control” over MJ. Estate states MJ companies had no right to control MJ. Estate says Robson is mistaken when he said he never alleged MJ was the sole shareholder of the companies. Estate states Robson’s lawyer has stated MJ was the 100% shareholder of the companies at his declaration. Estate also reminds that Robson’s previous complaints have called MJ Companies as “alter egos” of MJ. Estate states once it is established that MJ had full control over the MJ Companies, it makes no sense to claim people who were under control of MJ could control and/or stop him. Estate questions if MJ’s personal assistant Norma Staikos had a right to control MJ. Estate points out Robson repeatedly claimed MJ directed the companies and companies acted on MJ’s behest but now trying to downplay his previous claims. Estate states both law and common sense tells that MJ Companies could not control MJ and had no right to control MJ.
Estate discusses if Robson sufficiently alleged MJ companies knew or had reason to know past unlawful sexual conduct. Estate states Robson appears to argue MJ Companies had such knowledge when the 1993 allegations were made. Estate states those were just allegations, no findings were made, no charges were brought. Furthermore Estate says it makes no sense to say MJ Companies had reason o know the abuse when “Robson himself proudly defended MJ and his mother never complained about any suspected abuse (in fact she prominently and publicly defended MJ as well)”.
Estate ends their reply to Robson’s opposition by stating the obvious. The only reason Robson is suing MJ Companies is because MJ is deceased and he has been deceased for 4 years before Robson came forward with his false accusations. Estate asks the judge to sustain the demurrer without leave to amend.
4. Hearing – initially set for June 30 matter continued and hearing is set for July 20,2015
Demurrer hearing is set for June 30, 2015 at 8:30 AM PST. Civil case is also assigned to Judge Beckloff. According to case summary, demurrer matter is continued and a new hearing is set for July 20,2015. If media reports about the hearing, I will update this section.
Judge might rule on the hearing day or he might take days / weeks / months to rule. His possible rulings include
- - Sustain demurrer without leave to amend: Sustain a demurrer means law does not recognize a legal claim for the facts stated by the complaining party. With no chance to amend the complaint, it basically gets dismissed.
- - Sustain demurrer with leave to amend: Sustain a demurrer means law does not recognize a legal claim for the facts stated by the complaining party but leave to amend means an amended complaint can be filed. An amended complaint would result in another round of complaint, demurrer, opposition, reply, hearing and ruling.
- - Overrule the demurrer: Allow the claim to proceed further. However this doesn’t mean the case will go to trial. Allowing the claim to process would start the discovery process and there still would be the chance for a summary judgment and get the claim fully or partially dismissed before any trial.
Follow this post for updates about Robson civil case demurrer to the third amended complaint.
Additional information: The recent documents also show that Estate has served 3 subpoenas to the doctors related to this case. 2 of the doctors are the doctors who have treated Robson and the third doctor was retained by Robson's counsel to meet and interview with him and write the certificate of merit (required for plaintiffs over age 26 at the time of filing the claim). It looks like what Estate is asking includes : entire file for Robson, billing records for Robson, date of every appointment, any medical records and notes, all communication between the doctors and Robson/Robson lawyers and anything in the possession of the doctor related to MJ.
Robson lawyers have filed a motion to quash one of the subpoenas - the one served to the doctor that was hired by Robson's lawyers and provided the certificate of merit. They state they would use that doctor as an expert witness and expert witness depositions/ testimonies are only exchanged before a trial.
Robson lawyers asked Estate lawyers to withdraw their subpoena but Estate refused saying "we will not withdraw the subpoena. The court expressly relied on Dr. [redacted] testimony when it found in camera that there was a 'reasonable and meritorious cause for the filing of this action'. We do not understand how our clients do not have a right to understand the opinions expressed by Dr. [redacted] and relied upon by the court, and cross examine Dr. [redacted] on those opinions."
Hearing for the motion for quash subpoena for the doctor was initially set for July 13,2015 and later moved to July 20,2015.