Singer and choreographer Paula Abdul has filed a lawsuit against former “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe, alleging that he sexually assaulted her multiple times in the early 2000s when she was a judge on the hit reality show. The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, claims that Lythgoe coerced Abdul into having sexual relations with him by threatening to ruin her career and reputation if she refused. Abdul also accuses Lythgoe of creating a hostile work environment, subjecting her to verbal abuse, harassment, and retaliation.
According to the lawsuit, the first incident of sexual assault occurred in 2002, when Lythgoe invited Abdul to his office to discuss her contract renewal. The lawsuit alleges that Lythgoe locked the door, pushed Abdul onto his couch, and forced himself on her. Abdul says she tried to resist, but Lythgoe overpowered her and told her that he was “the boss” and that she had to do what he wanted. Abdul says she felt “violated, humiliated, and traumatized” by the assault.
The lawsuit further alleges that Lythgoe continued to sexually assault Abdul on several occasions over the next two years, sometimes in his office, sometimes in his car, and sometimes in hotel rooms. Abdul says she felt trapped and powerless, as Lythgoe had control over her career and could fire her or tarnish her image at any time. Abdul says she feared for her safety and well-being, as well as for the well-being of her family and friends.
The lawsuit also claims that Lythgoe subjected Abdul to constant harassment and intimidation at work, calling her names, making derogatory comments about her appearance and talent, and undermining her authority as a judge. Abdul says Lythgoe also retaliated against her for rejecting his advances, by giving her unfavorable edits on the show, leaking false stories about her to the media, and sabotaging her other professional opportunities, according to USNews.com.
Abdul is seeking unspecified damages for sexual battery, gender violence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and other causes of action. She is also seeking an injunction to prevent Lythgoe from contacting her or coming near her. Abdul’s attorney, Gloria Allred, said in a statement that Abdul is “a courageous survivor who has decided to speak out and seek justice for the harm that Mr. Lythgoe has inflicted on her.” Allred also said that Abdul hopes that her lawsuit will inspire other victims of sexual assault to come forward and hold their abusers accountable.
Lythgoe has not yet responded to the lawsuit or the allegations. He left “American Idol” in 2008 and went on to produce other shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The X Factor”. He has been married twice and has four children.