Singer Brown Cleared in $1M Lawsuit

By | February 20, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Soul singer James Brown won a partial victory in court, with a jury finding he did not sexually harass an employee, but ruling that his company wrongfully fired the woman.

“He feels good. He wants you all to know he’s feeling really good today, really good,” Brown’s attorney, Debra Opri, said after delivering Tuesday’s verdict by phone to the 68-year-old “godfather of soul.”

Lisa Ross Agbalaya had sued Brown for $1 million, claiming sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful firing and infliction of emotional distress.

Jurors were scheduled to begin deliberations Wednesday on how much to award Agbalaya in damages following the wrongful termination ruling, which Opri said would be appealed. Brown’s company, and not the singer himself, was held liable for Agbalaya’s dismissal.

In her lawsuit, Agbalaya claimed Brown grabbed her by the hips and pulled her toward him when she visited his Georgia home in 1999. She said she lost her job of seven years for rebuffing his advances.

The singer testified that Agbalaya was laid off after he closed his West Coast office because it wasn’t making money. He said he never subjected her to any unwanted sexual overtures.

Agbalaya, a 36-year-old mother of three, testified Tuesday that she felt she had become a burden to her family after losing her job.

Her attorney, Shelly McMillan, said Agbalaya should be paid at least six times the $39,000 a year she earned as West Coast president of James Brown Enterprises Inc.

Opri said Agbalaya deserved no more than a week’s pay.

“Why not pay her kids through college? That’s really what she’s asking you to do,” Opri told the jury.

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