Mother of Teen 'Sex Addict' Fights Dismissal of 'Tyra Banks Show' Lawsuit
A Georgia judge rules that the talk show's producers owed no duty of care after a 15-year-old girl tricked her way onto an episode about underage sex addiction.
Beverly McClendon, a resident of Georgia, is seeking a second opinion after striking out in a lawsuit that claimed Warner Bros. and producers of The Tyra Banks Show committed wrongful acts by convincing her 15-year-old "sex addict" daughter Jewel Ciera Washington to fly to New York to appear on the show behind her back.
In late July, a federal judge in Georgia dismissed McClendon's allegations that Tyra Banks and Warners violated privacy and exhibited negligence. Last week, McClendon appealed the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal.
In October 2009 the Tyra show put out an open call on its website for "sex addicts." Washington responded by e-mail, claiming to be such an addict. Soon after, a representative of the show called to discuss the possibility of her appearing on the show. Several phone conversations happened, and on at least one of those calls, Washington impersonated her mother so that the producers would believe they had parental consent. Washington also forged her mother's signature on the consent and release forms.
After Washington flew out to New York and appeared on the show, her mother sued.
McClendon's lawsuit didn't survive U.S. District Court judge Charles Pannell's summary judgment ruling.
The mother argued that producers didn't obtain the appropriate paperwork prior to Washington's appearance on the show and had thus failed in their duties.
But Judge Pannell responded that Washington was not "employed" by the show, and so the Georgia law regulating the hiring of child actors wasn't applicable.
"Because a single guest appearance does not amount to 'employment,' the statute imposed no duty on the defendants," the judge wrote in dismissing the negligence claim, adding that the law was not designed to protect the rights of parents.
McClendon believed that the law at least stated that "the child shall remain under the control of his or her parents," but the judge interpreted this to mean only that parents are entitled to their child's income until they reach adulthood or emancipation.
Judge Pannell also threw out McClendon's claim of a privacy violation because he says Georgia law doesn't recognize a "relational right to privacy."
Not satisfied with the way she's been left with no way to redress the unapproved talk show appearance besides scolding her teenage daughter, McClendon is now hoping an appeals court sees things differently.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner