As reported in the previous update, Judge ruled on first Safechuck demurrer on August 2016. Judge granted Estate’s demurrer request but also gave Safechuck the chance to amend his complaint.
The new lawyers that represent Robson, Safechuck and Jane Doe amended both Robson and Safechuck complaints adding claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, negligent supervision, negligent retention/hiring, negligent failure to warn, train or educate and breach of fiduciary duty.
Very quickly Estate filed a second demurrer to Safechuck’s amended complaint. Below you will find a short summary. You can read the scanned document here : https://www.scribd.com/document/335476670/Demurrer-to-Safechuck-s-Second-Amended-Complaint
Estate argues that Safechuck failed to list valid causes of action in his complaint. Even from the start Estate points to the obvious - how Safechuck (plus Robson and Jane Doe of course) tries to make this all about the MJ Companies to keep their lawsuits alive.
Estate also points out how Safechuck’s complaint is filled with easily proven falsehoods. For example Safechuck made claims against MJJ Ventures but MJJ Ventures didn’t even exist until 1991.
Most of the legal arguments in Estate’s demurrer motion are similar to the previous motions at Robson and Safechuck cases. For example negligent hiring, supervision and retention claims doesn’t make any sense at all. Michael established the companies. Safechuck in his complaint stated that Michael was the president/owner and 100% shareholder of the companies. So as a matter of law, these claims cannot be successful.
It doesn’t end there. Relationship between Michael and Safechuck was a personal relationship, not a business relationship. MJ Companies were irrelevant to how this relationship began and grew. Similarly companies did not have a duty of care towards Safechuck. Many of that duty of care and mandated reporter claims applies to the schools, churches, day care etc. but MJ Companies were none of those. Furthermore Safechuck’s parents were present for most of his interactions with Michael. This shows that Safechuck was under his parent’s care.
Demurrer hearing already happened on December 7th, 2016. Judge Beckloff has taken the matter under consideration and expected to rule soon.
Both Robson and Safechuck cases have been going in circles for some time. A complaint gets filed, then a demurrer. Judge grants Estate's demurrer but gives Robson and Safechuck a chance to amend their complaints. And it starts all over again.
To get a better understanding of what’s happening behind the scenes we also acquired both demurrer hearing transcripts. Unfortunately due to copyright limitations I can’t share those transcripts in full. Below you will find summaries and some screenshots of the most interesting parts of the Safechuck demurrer hearings.
In the first demurrer hearing back in June 2016, Safechuck was still represented by his old lawyers. Judge Beckloff makes a note of how he approaches to Robson and Safechuck cases differently. Beckloff says during Robson demurrers he focused on the timing - statute of limitations. However on Safechuck demurrers although the timing is still an issue, Judge’s main concern is the duty issue. This makes sense as Robson has an employment relationship with MJ Companies while Safechuck does not. We all know that Robson/Safechuck/Doe is suing MJ Companies because they can’t sue MJ or MJ Estate. However while Robson has a connection to the MJ Companies, neither Safechuck nor Jane Doe has any connection. This makes judge question why would the MJ Companies have any kind of duty of care towards them.
That hearing also has this interesting statement by MJ Estate lawyer Steinsapir. While arguing about allegations, Steinsapir makes a reference to possible negligent hiring and retention claims as well as a duty to warn. He mentions how they think they can easily win against such claims in a summary judgment based on the evidence that MJ formed and owned these companies and no one in the companies had any power over him. Safechuck’s new lawyers in the newest complaint made exactly these claims – the claims that Estate feels they can easily win against at summary judgment.
Safechuck’s then lawyers also argued that if someone warned Safechuck’s parents about Michael’s alleged abuse “they would have done what any parent would have done. They would have extracted their child out of the clutches of a known sexual abuser” (this is exact words of the lawyer). However we know that neither Safechuck’s parents nor Robson’s parents extracted their kids even after the 93 Chandler allegations and the accompanying law enforcement investigation and interviews. A criminal inquiry into Michael wasn’t enough for them to cut their relationship with Michael. So any argument that if someone from MJ Companies had warned them, they would have extracted their kids is quite unbelievable.
On the second demurrer hearing at December, 2016, very promisingly Judge Beckloff starts by saying “I’m having trouble with a lot of this” to Safechuck’s new lawyers. Judge also questions if it would be a factual determination if he decides Michael couldn’t be controlled by anyone in the MJ Companies as he was the 100% shareholder of the companies. Personally I understood it as Judge is questioning whether he can dismiss Safechuck case at demurrer stage or if he needs to wait until a summary judgment phase.
I chuckled when the new Safechuck lawyers admitted that the Safechuck (and also Robson, Jane Doe) complaint was drafted off a complaint they used in a clergy case. A complaint they used across California for years. When we read the Robson and Safechuck amended complaints, they read like a copy/paste from a church/school case. Many of the arguments made no sense in Michael – MJ Companies situation. Now the lawyers confirm our suspicions.
Estate lawyer Steinsapir also points out that this boilerplate complaint doesn’t work in this situation. Priests have supervisors. Even the school presidents have supervisors such as superintendent or board of trustees. This is exactly why a copy/paste complaint from a clergy or a school case makes no sense here.
It’s hard to tell if Judge Beckloff is being nice or being sarcastic with “I don’t think you are sitting in your office copying this off your computer” comment. I think that’s exactly what they are doing as it can be seen from the gender specific pronouns they failed to change in the Jane Doe complaint.
Another good sign is seeing Estate lawyers bring up pretty much the same things we have written on this blog. The latest complaints in these cases basically claim Michael Jackson the boss should have supervised Michael Jackson the employee. It also doesn’t make any sense to argue that a secretary or a personal assistant could have controlled Michael who happened to be their boss.
The transcript gives us a fun tidbit as well. Estate lawyers mention that Safechuck/Robson/Doe lawyers have deposed “some people” (most probably Norma Staikos and Jolie Levine) and that they laughed to the idea that anyone from the corporations could have controlled Michael.
Overall it looks very promising such as Judge questioning if the MJ Companies had any duty of care towards Safechuck, stating that he is having trouble with a lot of this. It makes a lot of sense given that unlike Robson, Safechuck did not have any work relationship with the companies. The only issue is if the Judge thinks he can dismiss the case at the demurrer phase (where he needs to accept any claims by Safechuck as true) or he will opt to wait for summary judgment (when Estate can present counter evidence). It is unfortunately still a waiting game.
Coming soon: MJ Estate’s motion to compel Wade Robson to produce documents. It would be quite eye opening.