Viacom is pushing back hard, vowing to fight the $20 million lawsuit filed against the company by rapper and VH1 reality star Jayceon Terrell Taylor, better known as the Game.
Taylor filed suit Monday in Federal Court in the Central District of California, Western Division (Los Angeles), claiming Viacom should assume financial liability for his $7.1 million sexual harassment judgment of November, the result of allegations by Priscilla Rainey that he groped her during her stint on the VH1 show “She’s Got Game,” which ran for one season in 2015.
“In November 2016, a jury ordered Mr. Taylor to pay more than $7 million as a result of his actions against a former contestant of an unscripted television series produced by a third party,” Viacom said in a statement issued Tuesday. “He is now seeking to shift the burden of his damages to Viacom through a misdirected legal action that is totally without merit. We will work with the production partner on this series to vigorously defend against this claim.”
Taylor’s attorney, Andrew Williams, declined to comment beyond the allegations in the suit, which claims Viacom failed to act on due diligence regarding Rainey. Although Rainey is said to have initially passed the show’s psychological exams, subsequent findings that she had a record that included “a long and violent criminal history, including multiple felony arrests for aggravated battery” and was allegedly hospitalized for mental illness in 2012 were ignored.
Viacom, the suit alleges, “ignored the safety of the plaintiff and others” because the show’s producers felt Rainey would be good for ratings. The $20 million sought by the Game presumably covers potential future damages against Taylor for lost revenue opportunities as a result of Rainey’s impact on his reputation and for mental anguish.
Lisa Bloom, a prominent Los Angeles-based sexual harassment attorney who most recently took on Bill O’Reilly, said that in her opinion, the Game should not be seeking to offload his legal woes: “The Game’s attempt to shift the blame to Viacom for his sexual assault is a breathtaking act of arrogance,” Bloom stated. “Whatever Viacom knew about the woman’s emotional state has zero relevance to whether he committed sexual assault — and an Illinois court found that he did. She was the victim. He was the perpetrator. The Game obviously does not get it. Time for him to grow up and learn to take personal responsibility for his own behavior.”
The suit was filed in federal court due to the diverse jurisdiction and the fact that the amount in controversy is more than $75,000.Taylor is based in Los Angeles, and the New York-based plaintiff, Viacom.
Rainey filed her case in Illinois, because that is where she alleges the groping incident took place. In November, Taylor was found guilty of sexual battery and ordered to pay Rainey $7.1 million. He filed an appeal, and there is a post-judgment hearing scheduled for May 30.
The dating show “She’s Got Game” aired for nine episodes in 2015, and featured multiple women vying for the Game’s attention in the style of The Bachelor. Rainey was ultimate “voted off,” but not before she says Taylor “tricked her” into going on an actual date in which he got inebriated and groped her.