Janet Jackson May Face Class Action Over Breast Flap

The flap over Janet Jackson's nationally televised breast-baring appearance during halftime at the Super Bowl Feb. 1 may swiftly move into the courtroom.

LOS ANGELES-- The flap over Janet Jackson's nationally televised breast-baring appearance during halftime at the Super Bowl Feb. 1 may swiftly move into the courtroom.

On Feb. 4, a Knoxville, Tenn., woman filed a federal class action suit against Jackson, Justin Timberlake (who ripped open Jackson's costume during the halftime performance), CBS (which aired the telecast), MTV (which produced the halftime show) and the networks' corporate parent Viacom.

The action was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee by Terri Carlin on behalf of "all American citizens who watched the outrageous conduct which occurred during the Super Bowl halftime show."


Carlin alleges that the defendants "included in the half-time show sexually explicit acts designed solely to garner publicity and, ultimately, to increase profits for themselves."

The suit further claims they "collaborated to commit and/or broadcast outrageous and lewd acts at a time when [they] knew that millions of American families would be watching."

Jackson's partial disrobing is characterized in the suit as "extreme and outrageous conduct which went beyond the bounds of decency."

The suit claims that the defendant performers and networks failed to act responsibly in airing the event.

"[...P]arents in today's cultural environment are repeatedly told that it is their responsibility to monitor and guide their children," the suit states. "Families are told that they themselves are the keys to safeguarding exposures to material that is sexually suggestive and that cheapens and degrades the human spirit.

"Families have an expectation that they can trust companies and individuals such as the defendants not to expose families to sexually explicit conduct during broadcasts of prime time events such as the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, the defendants consciously or recklessly and without warning permitted these acts to be aired."

It is not known if plaintiff Carlin is a parent. Her attorney, Wayne A. Ritchie II of Knoxville, did not return a call from Entertainment Law Weekly.

The action also alleges that the defendants' conduct violated FCC regulations. It implies that since the incident was telecast internationally, members of the plaintiff class were defamed and "suffered injuries and damages to their reputations as Americans," and also claims the defendants breached real and implied contracts.


The suit seeks compensatory damages "not to exceed the gross receipts generated by each defendant during the Super Bowl and Super Bowl halftime show" and punitive damages "not to exceed the total of the gross annual revenues of each defendant for the last three years prior to the filing of [the] action."

Spokespersons for Viacom and CBS had no comment.

An MTV spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment, and representatives of Jackson and Timberlake could not be reached.


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