The Litigation – Part 1

The Probate Court Case (Creditor’s Claim )

Robson filed two types of legal action against Jackson’s entities. A creditor’s claim against his Estate in the Probate Court, and a lawsuit against Jackson and two of his companies, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures in the Civil Court. In both he demanded money for alleged childhood sexual abuse.

In this chapter we discuss the creditor’s claim, then in the next chapter the civil lawsuit.

Under US law when someone dies, those who have any sort of claim against the deceased can file those claims against the deceased person’s Estate – this is called a creditor’s claim. There are certain statutes of limitations to file a creditor’s claim, though. A claimant has to file his creditor’s claim no later than 60 days from the date when he first has knowledge of the facts reasonably giving rise to the existence of the claim and the administration of the Estate.

In this case it meant that Robson should have filed his creditor’s claim within 60 days of when he knew both of the following: 1. that he was allegedly sexually abused as a child by Michael Jackson, 2. that Michael Jackson had an Estate.

Robson claimed that he did not understand that he was sexually abused by Michael Jackson as a child until May 8, 2012, when he first disclosed those alleged acts to his therapist. Until then, he claimed, he thought those alleged acts were loving and consensual.

Even if we take Robson’s word for this story, based on the first requirement of a timely claim, he should have filed his creditor’s claim within 60 days of telling his therapist that he was allegedly molested, ie. until July 7, 2012. There is a second requirement, though, the knowledge of the administration of the Estate. In his declaration and creditor’s claim, Robson claims that he did not know about the administration of Michael Jackson’s Estate until March 4, 2013 when he first met with his lawyers, Gradstein & Marzano.

“Prior to March 4, I did not understand or was even aware that an Estate had been opened for administration or that I could seek to make a claim.” [1; paragraph 27]

If this was true it would put Wade within the 60 days requirement, as he filed his creditor’s claim on May 1, 2013, within 60 days of obtaining knowledge about the administration of Jackson’s Estate.

That claim, however, is a lie, as it was shown during the Probate Court proceedings.

As it was revealed by Jackson’s Estate during discovery, Wade was aware of the administration of Jackson’s Estate years before he filed his creditor’s claim. Even in the unlikely event of Wade somehow missing the very much publicized news of the administration of Jackson’s Estate after his death, there is evidence of him being so much aware of the Estate way before March 4, 2013, that he actually negotiated with them.

Like discussed in this chapter, in 2011 Wade was eager to work on Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show that was created in a co-operation between Cirque du Soleil and Jackson’s Estate. To discuss the show, in early 2011 he made a visit to the office of John Branca, one of the executors of the Michael Jackson Estate.

As we have mentioned before Wade also made an entry in the book entitled The Official Michael Jackson Opus that was approved and endorsed by Jackson’s Estate in 2009.

Moreover, as we have seen above, in late 2012-early 2013 Wade was shopping a book about his allegations and those negotiations were assisted by his longtime lawyer and family friend, Helen Yu. This is significant to the discussion of whether Wade knew about the Estate before March 4, 2013, because on November 25, 2009 the website of Yu’s law firm Yu Leseberg, published an interview with her with the title “Musical Artists: Worth More Dead Than Alive? Michael Jackson and Elvis Generate Millions for their Estates” in which she discusses Jackson’s Estate and its potential incomes. In the article, among other things, we read:

“Since Michael Jackson’s death, the world can now see the true light of Michael’s legacy. Posthumous homages have been done by Helen Yu represented Michael Jackson protégé Wade Robson and his friend Charles Klapow.

[…]

Helen says, “I’ve known Wade Robson and Charles Klapow since they were both little kids. They have both been disciples of Michael all their lives, and it’s great to see them honoring him in this way.”

[…]

Yu, who once attended a pre-auction viewing of the possessions of the still living King of Pop, notes the unprecedented earning power of the now deceased Jackson. “He was certainly an amazing songwriter, performer and dancer, but he sometimes let the wrong people in. Now that his estate’s advisors are John Branca and John McClain, music industry veterans who know how to monetize the business, unfortunately, he will most likely earn more dead than alive.” [2]

(Emphasis added.)

This same lawyer then helped Wade to shop his book about his allegations in late 2012-early 2013, so she obviously knew about both Jackson’s Estate and Wade’s allegations at the time. It is difficult to believe that she would not share with Wade the information that Jackson had an Estate while helping him in shopping a book about his allegations – even if we buy into the idea that Wade really did not know about the Estate before that (which is not true, as shown above).

This information about Wade’s book shopping and Yu’s involvement in it, however, did not come out until after the Probate Court case was already closed. Jackson’s defense came across this information only in 2016 while doing discovery for the civil lawsuit. During the Probate Court case Wade “forgot” to share this information, so it did not factor in the Court’s decision about the creditor’s claim. However, the evidence about Wade’s encounters with the Estate in 2011 was enough to show that he lied when he claimed that he did not know about the Estate before March 4, 2013.

Please note that Wade made that claim in a declaration, under penalty of perjury and also that Wade’s claim is that he did not file these legal actions for money, but to fight for the “truth”. How does one fight for the alleged “truth” with lies?

Wade also tried to twist the requirement and besides claiming that he was not aware of the Estate’s administration at all, he also claimed that he was not aware that he could seek a claim. In its decision about the creditor’s claim the Court pointed out that the requirement is knowing about the administration of the Estate and not knowing that one has a cause of action. However, even if the requirement was knowing that he had a cause of action, Wade still could not have prevailed. Like in this chapter,  the Estate discovered, that on September 7, 2012 Wade sent out an e-mail in which he shared his allegations with over 30 individuals. In that e-mail asking his recipients for discretion, he refers to his allegations as an “extremely sensitive legal matter”, which shows that long before March 4, 2013, at the very least by September 7, 2012, he understood that he had a cause of action. [3]

To get around statutes of limitations, Wade also tried an equitable estoppel argument in support of his creditor’s claim. Equitable estoppel is a doctrine that prevents that someone could take advantage of his wrongdoings – eg. misleading, fraudulent actions and claims – in court. For example, in relation to statutes of limitations, if a claimant or plaintiff fails to file a timely claim because the defendant mislead him on his rights or the defendant threatened him, then equitable estoppel can be invoked and in that case claimant’s/plaintiff’s complaint would not be dismissed even if statutes of limitations have already run.

In this case, Wade claimed that Michael Jackson’s alleged threats to him such as that they would both go to jail and their careers and lives would be over if anyone found out, prevented him to file a claim before May 1, 2013. Moreover, he claimed that the psychological effects of Jackson allegedly misleading him into believing that sexual relations between a child and an adult would be loving and consensual, prevented him from understanding that such relations were sexual abuse, until he went into therapy on May 8, 2012.

“[Robson] lacked any understanding that his long-term childhood relationship with [Jackson] included ongoing sexual abuse over a seven-year period – the acts giving rise to this claim – prior to May 8, 2012”, we read in Wade’s court petition [4; page 1].

The Court dismissed this argument. While we do not see much of what happened during the Probate Court process (eg. in depositions), the Court’s ruling stated that at least by the time of Jackson’s death, Robson was well aware of both that a sexual relationship between an adult and a minor was a crime and also that a victim does not go to jail for such alleged acts.

“[Robson] knew at the time of [Jackson’s] death in June 2009 that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sexual conduct with a minor.”

and

“[Robson] understood in June 2009 that minors are not criminally prosecuted when an adult engages in sexual conduct with them.” [3; page 15]

This means that Wade could not invoke equitable estoppel, because on May 8, 2012 he knew all the alleged facts giving rise to his claim (that he was allegedly sexually abused, that such acts were a crime, and that he would not go to jail for them) and he was very much aware of the administration of Jackson’s Estate well before March 4, 2013 – despite of him claiming otherwise in his declaration under penalty of perjury. The Court also stated that any alleged intimidation that Robson claims Jackson has made to him would cease on the day of Jackson’s death, on June 25, 2009.

The Court actually pointed out that in a Probate Court case it is the Estate who is a party to the proceedings, not the decedent. Thus, citing precedent law in length, the Court said:

“While [Robson] conflates the Estate representatives and [Jackson] in his estoppel argument, it is the Estate representatives who are the parties to this Probate proceedings. As there is no evidence that the Estate’s representatives did or said anything that prevented [Robson] from filing his claim, [Robson] cannot establish the elements of equitable estoppel against them.” [3; page 8]

Despite of that the Court also examined what if Robson was right in his argument that it is the decedent’s alleged actions that should count for this equitable estoppel argument as opposed to the Estate’s representative’s actions, but even so Robson could not have prevailed, as we have discussed above.

In a ruling by Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff, the Court dismissed Wade Robson’s creditor’s claim on May 26, 2015. Although immediately after the ruling Wade’s lawyer, Maryann Marzano vowed to appeal, they eventually never did.

The previous chapter: A book and a lawsuit

The next chapter: The Civil Lawsuit

Sources:

[1] Declaration of Wade Robson (April 30, 2013)
https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/2013-04-30-robson-declaration.pdf

[2] Musical Artists: Worth More Dead Than Alive? Michael Jackson and Elvis Generate Millions for their Estates (Yu Leseberg Law Corporation, November 25, 2009)
The original article was to be found at http://yuleseberg.com/news/2015/9/24/musical-artists-worth-more-dead-than-alive
It has since been removed, but for a secondary source see a July 23, 2013 saving of the article: www-yuleseberg-com 2009 nov saved July 23 2013

[3] Ruling on Submitted Matter – Motion for Summary Judgement – Wade Robson’s Late Claim Petition (BP117321, May 26, 2015)
2015.05.26. mj2 Robson MSJ Order dismissed

[4] Notice of Petition and Petition for Order to Allow Filing of Late Claim Against Estate; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support Thereof (filed by Wade Robson on July 27, 2013)
2013.06.27. Robson petition for allowing filing of late claim

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