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Sexual harassment lawsuit against Jason Derulo hits legal snafu

The snag stems from not only the contract itself, but also under which state laws the complaint should be filed and tried
Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo (Photo credit: Bang Media)

A sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Jason Derulo has been dismissed on a technicality.

Emaza Gibson filed a complaint against the singer in Los Angeles Superior Court last October, alleging that he made “unconscionable sexual advances” and “maliciously” promised her success in the music business. However, on April 16, Judge Kerry Bensinger ruled the alleged victim had signed contracts with the “Talk Dirty” hitmaker and his label Atlantic Records, in which she agreed to handle any disputes under New York state law and using courts in Manhattan.

Gibson’s lawyer has insisted the case is still “very much in play” and vowed to refile the allegations in New York.

“This case is still very much in play. The judge did not rule on the merits of the plaintiff’s claims but merely changed the venue,” Ronald Zambrano told Rolling Stone in a statement.

“The allegations against Derulo by Ms. Gibson remain unchanged, and we remain committed to holding him accountable for his reprehensible and illegal conduct. The lawsuit will be refiled in New York, and we fully intend to win,” he added.

Before the judge’s ruling on April 16, Zambrano argued that some of his client’s claims — including her claim of quid-pro-quo sexual harassment — made “no reference to a contract.” Therefore, according to Zambrano, they shouldn’t be subject to the terms of the signed agreements. In court filings, he stated the alleged harassment happened in California and should be governed by California state law.

“The contract cannot influence those claims,” Zambrano told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kerry Bensinger at the hearing.

The lawyer had insisted some of Gibson’s claims made “no reference to a contract” so shouldn’t be subject to the terms of the agreements, and in court filings he argued the alleged harassment happened in California so should be governed by local state law.

“The contract cannot influence those claims,” he said.

But Derulo’s lawyer, Camilo Echavarria, hit back.

“The tort claims are related to the agreement. The forum selection clause is extremely broad. It’s not just for claims of breach of contract. It’s for any action related to the agreement. And the entire existence of this entire relationship originates from the agreement,” Echavarria countered.

The judge ultimately ruled the aspiring singer’s artist and recording agreements, which were signed in February 2022, included “forum selection” clauses, which stated the sole jurisdiction for all legal actions related to the recording relationship would be in New York County.

In her court documents, Gibson claimed that she initially considered the “Wiggle” singer to be a “mentor [and] supervisor” after he reached out to her in 2021 with the promise of a record deal. However, she alleged he expected “sex in exchange for success,” and their relationship soured after she rejected his advances and eventually stopped communicating with him.

Derulo previously said the allegations were “completely false and hurtful.”

“I wouldn’t normally comment but these claims are completely false and hurtful. I stand against all forms of harassment, and I remain supportive of anybody following their dreams. I’ve always strived to live my life in a positively impactful way, and that’s why I sit here before you deeply offended by these defamatory claims. God bless,” he said in an Instagram video.

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