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America's Got Talent Just Got Hit With A Lawsuit From A Contestant

America's Got Talent
(Image credit: Photo courtesy of NBC)

Back when reality competition shows were breaking out, one of the most popular elements were the audition episodes, in which judges like Simon Cowell would rip people to shreds for their talents, or lack thereof. Crapping on others was a foundation of the genre, but times have definitely changed, and America's Got Talent is now at the center of a lawsuit over a contestant's claims that she and her husband were humiliated by Tyra Banks, and that the host traumatized their young daughter. Let it surprise no one that Cowell is on this show now.

Yeah, this sounds like a troublesome one, although it's obviously hard to know what really went down. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday -- you can read it via Deadline -- and the plaintiff "Jane Doe" states that she and her husband performed for a March 19 taping of America's Got Talent, singing a song they'd written together that celebrated their daughter, named Mary in the suit, and the bonds of family. But the thought was not what counted here, and the judges and audience members weren't exactly kind to the performers, which plays into the humiliation identified in the lawsuit.

Jane Doe claims the show's producers gave her daughter Mary a waiver contract to sign, one that contestants usually have to sign in acknowledging that insults and ridicule can occur, but that the parents weren't present or even notified that Mary was even presented with a waiver. (As well, requests by the plaintiff to see said waiver were reportedly denied.) Either way, it's likely that no paperwork would have ceased the events laid out in the suit, as seen below.

Tyra Banks, an individual acting as an agent of Defendants, physically manipulated and verbally abused Mary. Banks shook Mary's shoulder, pulled Mary's hair back and physically manipulated Mary. Mary became nervous when she realizes that Banks is planning to physically manipulate her. Mary did not stop Banks' conduct because Mary was fearful. Banks also insinuated that Mary was accidentally conceived, made fun of the performance and ridiculed [the song] in front of Mary, all in front of active cameras that were filming Mary. After the performance, Banks asked Mary to describe, in front of active and filming cameras, her opinion about Jane and her husband after they were publicly ridiculed by _AGT. _

Making matters potentially worse, the daughter is said to have had a particular fondness for that song, but after the America's Got Talent taping, hearing it or even any mention of it reportedly caused her to become extremely anxious and nervous. Similar reactions are said to happen whenever Mary thinks about the footage airing.

A lawsuit is always going to word things in the most emotionally grinding way possible, so one person's "pulled hair back and physically manipulated her" can be another person's "hair tousle." According to the suit, where the defendant is production company Marathon Productions, requests have been made by the plaintiffs to keep the footage from airing and thus causing more trauma to the daughter, but those requests were reportedly denied.

Tyra Banks made headlines when she joined America's Got Talent earlier this year, though not as many headlines as former host Nick Cannon, who notably and publicly quit the show after NBC raised concerns over jokes that Cannon made on a recent stand-up special. Getting sued before the first episode airs, though, is a good way to jump-start the headline train again.

America's Got Talent will make its big Season 12 debut on NBC on Tuesday, May 30, at 8:00 p.m. ET. To see when everything else is hitting the small screen in the near future, head to our summer TV schedule.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.