The estate of Michael Jackson sued HBO on Thursday, accusing the cable channel of violating a non-disparagement clause by agreeing to run “Leaving Neverland,” a documentary accusing Jackson of sexual abuse.
The suit seeks to compel HBO to litigate the matter in a public arbitration process, and claims that the estate could be awarded $100 million or more in damages.
HBO said its “plans remain unchanged” to air the film.
“Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of ‘Leaving Neverland,’ the two-part documentary, on March 3 and 4,” an HBO spokesperson said. “This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
According to the suit, HBO agreed in 1992 to run “Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.” The contract included a non-disparagement agreement.
The suit alleges that the documentary is based on false accusations, and that Jackson’s accusers have a financial motive to lie.
“HBO and the director were well aware of their financial motives and that ample opposing facts are available from numerous sources, but made the unconscionable decision to bury any evidence casting doubt on their chosen narrative,” said Howard Weitzman, attorney for the estate. “Had they made an objective film it would have allowed viewers to make up their own minds about these allegations, instead of having a television network dictate to them that they must accept these false claims about Michael Jackson.”