Paula Abdul has filed a sexual assault and gender violence lawsuit against American Idol executive producer and So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe over multiple alleged attacks.
Abdul signed non-disclosure agreements as part of her employment on both reality shows, which prevented her from disclosing confidential or derogatory information.
But she has filed the suit under California’s Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act, which created a one-year window to file certain sexual abuse lawsuits that would otherwise be outside the statute of limitations. The deadline to file is Dec. 31.
“Lythgoe knew and was aware that his treatment of Abdul was inappropriate and even criminal,” Abdul says of the British producer’s allegedly well known “indecent conduct” in the four-claim complaint filed in LA Superior Court. “Indeed at one point Lythgoe called Abdul and taunted her that they should celebrate because it had been ‘seven years and the statute of limitations had run,’” the jury trial seeking filing goes on to state. “Lythgoe clearly knew that his assaults of Abdul were not just wrong but that he held the power to keep her silent.”
“For years, Abdul has remained silent about the sexual assaults and harassment she experienced on account of Lythgoe due to fear of speaking out against one of the most well-known producers of television competition shows who could easily break her career as a television personality and of being ostracized and blackballed by an industry that had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors of sexual assault and harassment,” she declares.
Among the assault claims, there are also allegations of compensation discrimination in the complaint, as well original Idol judge Abdul being the target of “constant taunts, bullying, humiliation, and harassment” on the then mega-rated show.
The first alleged assault occurred “during one of American Idol’ s initial seasons” in a hotel elevator while the Simon Cowell co-judged show was on the road. “Lythgoe shoved Abdul against the wall, then grabbed her genitals and breasts, and began shoving his tongue down her throat,” the document states, with Abdul eventually escaping to her room in the early 2000s and contacting her reps ASAP.
The second assault supposedly happened over a decade later in 2015 during Season 12 of SYTYCD at Lythgoe’s LA home. “Toward the end of the evening, Lythgoe forced himself on top of Abdul while she was seated on his couch and attempted to kiss her while proclaiming that the two would make an excellent ‘power couple,’” the filing says of what Abdul assumed was a “professional invitation” from her EP and on-air co-star. “Abdul pushed Lythgoe off of her, explaining that she was not interested in his advances and immediately left.” That same year, Abdul says she witnessed Lythgoe assaulted one of his assistants when SYTYCD was filming in Las Vegas.
In both cases of attacks on her personally, Abdul says she was very much aware how Lythgoe was one of her bosses and “feared she would be retaliated against if she spoke out.” Abdul, who has appeared on Idol and various other competition series as a guest judge, performer and otherwise in subsequent years, was able to file today’s legal action under the Golden State’s December 31st expiring Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act because the measure permits civil lawsuits on claims that otherwise would be time-barred by the statute of limitations.
The complaint names Lythgoe as well American Idol’s producers American Idol Productions, Dance Nation Productions, 19 Entertainment and Fremantlemedia North America as defendants too.
Separately, Abdul was also a judge on the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance.