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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Louisiana Court Revives|’Big Easy Justice’ Suit

(CN) - A Louisiana man who was arrested on a reality show co-produced by Jennifer Lopez and Al Roker can advance his claims of assault and defamation, a state appeals court ruled.

Everette Draughn was arrested on a Spike TV show called "Big Easy Justice," starring Eugene "Tat-2 the Bounty Hunter" Thacker.

Draughn claims he was arrested because he missed a hearing for a traffic ticket. The defendants - which include Draughn, Roker, Lopez and Spike TV - allege that he was arrested for illegal possession of stolen things.

After Draughn's arrest in April 2012, he signed a release for footage relating to his arrest to appear on "Big Easy Justice."

In September of that year, he sued Thacker and his company, Hook Em and Book Em Elite Fugitive Recovery, for assault and battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

Filing his lawsuit in Jefferson Parish, La., Draughn also sued Lopez as CEO of Jennifer Lopez Enterprises, Nuyorican Productions, Roker as CEO of Al Roker Entertainment Inc., Bodega Pictures Inc., and Spike TV, which is a division of Viacom Media Networks.

The defendants asked the court to throw out the lawsuit due to improper venue, claiming the release included a clause mandating that any lawsuit related to Draughn's TV appearance must be litigated in New York.

The trial court ruled in the defendants' favor, stating that Draughn failed to prove that they procured the forum selection clause through fraud, coercion or duress.

However, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Louisiana Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's decision in an opinion written by Judge Stephen J. Windhorst.

"After thorough review of the record, we find that there was no evidence introduced by either party in support of or against the exceptions," Windhorst wrote.

He noted that the defendants discussed the written release and a pair of appearance bonds, but they failed to have the documents admitted into evidence.

Similarly, Draughn did not admit the DVD of his appearance on the TV show into evidence, which was unable to be played on the equipment in the courtroom.

"Accordingly, we find the trial court erred in granting the exceptions of improper venue when there was no evidence properly before it on which to base its ruling," Windhorst wrote, remanding the case to the trial court.

Spike TV touts "Big Easy Justice" as a show in which fans can watch Tat-2 and his crew "kick down doors, go on stakeouts and put their lives directly in the line of fire as they track down hardened criminals and bring them back to jail."

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