Robson civil case demurrer ruling document : http://www.scribd.com/doc/283138843/Robson-Demurrer-Ruling
On September 21, 2015 after 2 months of waiting Judge ruled on MJ Estate’s demurrer for Robson’s civil case. Estate’s demurrer was overruled, this means Robson’s claim will proceed to the next phase of summary judgment.
In his civil case Robson has sued two of MJ’s companies – MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. According to the law, a person can bring a childhood sexual abuse case until their 26th birthday. However there is an exception. This exception allows lawsuit against third party non perpetrators (in this instance MJ Companies) if they knew or had a reason to know about the unlawful sexual conduct of their employee/ representative/agent (MJ) and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it.
Robson was over 26 years old when he filed his lawsuit and he has been claiming this exception. Estate was arguing against it. The demurrer has been mainly about statute of limitations.
Demurrer can be explained as “even if the facts alleged in the complaint were true, there is no legal basis for a lawsuit". In other words Judge is required to accept all the claims as true for the purposes of demurrer and is only determining if there is a legal basis for a lawsuit. Furthermore in demurrer stage the defendants (Estate in this instance) cannot bring any evidence or witnesses. They could only argue against Robson’s claims using the law and the precedent cases.
Judge explains nature of demurrers in his ruling.
Overall all Robson needed to do was to allege something more than boilerplate. Judge decided that Robson alleged sufficient facts of a business environment between himself and MJ Companies. This is a fact. We all know that Robson (and his mother) was employed by MJJ Productions and MJJ Productions sponsored Robson’s work visa to USA. Given there is indeed a business relationship and given the judge needs to accept Robson’s claims as true for demurrer purposes, judge overruled Estate’s demurrer.
However this doesn’t mean Robson’s claims have any merit. To the contrary judge repeatedly wrote in order to determine if those claims are true or not there needs to be “factual determination in a proceeding beyond demurrer.” (Note: What judge refers as "ultimate fact" or "some facts" on his ruling are Robson’s claims from third amended complaint [TAC]).
In other words both sides need to present their evidence, witnesses etc. to determine if these claims have any merit at all and if it can satisfy the exception conditions. In order to do that discovery, depositions of witnesses and experts have to be completed and the dismissal issue will get revisited at summary judgment.
Robson supporters will see this ruling as a victory; personally I see it as expected. For example Robson claimed Norma Staikos had some power over MJ. Given the judge needed to accept Robson’s claims as true for the purpose of demurrer and Estate can’t bring any counter evidence during demurrer , some fans (including me) expected this to survive demurrer, discovery happen, reconsidered during summary judgment based on evidence. This is exactly what the Judge wrote in his ruling (as it can be seen in the above screenshot)
Also please be aware if anyone claims this case is “definitely / absolutely” going to trial, they would be wrong. There are several steps and the very important summary judgment hurdle before this case comes anywhere near to going to trial. It’s not over yet.
So what’s next? Most probably it would start with scheduling, determining deadlines for discovery, depositions and so on. Even a trial date can be set tentatively – but again it doesn’t mean it would go to trial for sure. If they haven’t already done so, parties will work on a protective order to be able to keep discovery, depositions as confidential. Discovery disputes are also pretty common. Overall we probably won’t hear much until it is time for summary judgment and that would be several months away.
Note: Case summary system also shows that judge granted Estate's demurrer for Safechuck's probate case - meaning it got dismissed. Safechuck also has a civil case fild against MJ companies but he doesn't have as strong business relationship with MJ Companies as Robson.
Current status of Robson & Safechuck cases:
- Robson probate claim got dismissed.
- Safechuck probate claim got dismissed.
- Robson civil case survived demurrer and proceed to discovery & summary judgment phase.
- Safechuck civil case recently started. Estate is expected to file a demurrer.