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Tennessee woman withdraws Jackson flash lawsuit

Plaintiff can refile if self-policing by networks is ineffective
/ Source: Reuters

A Tennessee woman has withdrawn a suit against singer Janet Jackson and others involved in her breast-baring Super Bowl show until she sees if broadcasters and regulators are able to clean up television themselves, court papers showed Tuesday.

The suit filed last week in Knoxville, Tennessee, by Terri Carlin, had sought class action status and damages for millions of viewers who might have been exposed to what she said was lewd and inappropriate conduct by Jackson and others at the halftime event.

The suit had named pop star Justin Timberlake, who performed with Jackson, CBS Broadcasting Inc., show producer MTV Networks Enterprises Inc., and the parent of those two companies, Viacom Inc..

It had asked the court to order a halt to offensive programming during hours when children are watching and to award damages for as many as 80 million U.S. viewers based on revenues from the show and how much the entertainers were paid.

The withdrawal notice filed in federal court Monday said Carlin retains the right to refile the suit if self-policing by broadcasters and fines by regulators do not accomplish what she was after

The notice said Carlin’s law firm, Ritchie, Fels and Dillard, which was handling the case for free, was flooded with calls and mail from parents in nearly every state. It also said that she recognized that damages, had they been awarded, were likely to have been nominal given the number of potential victims -- perhaps amounting to no more than the price of a month’s cable TV subscription per person.

But if damages had been awarded, it said, wanton disregard of broadcast regulations would become cost prohibitive for violators.

Meanwhile the suit has been shelved “until it is determined whether the remedial measures recently announced by corporate defendants, the potential Federal Communications Commission sanctions and perhaps the passage of stronger enforcement provisions will prevent further similar conduct.”

During the halftime show Timberlake tore off half of Jackson’s black leather bustier, exposing her right breast, while the two were singing a duet.

Jackson took the blame but said “it was not my intention that it go as far as it did.” Timberlake apologized for the incident when he appeared on Sunday’s Grammy Awards broadcast, for which CBS used a delay to censor anything untoward from reaching viewers.

ABC also said it will use a delay on its Feb. 29 broadcast of the Academy Awards.