Tiffany Haddish has been sued by a woman and her younger brother for alleged child sexual abuse, claims which Haddish’s attorney is calling “bogus.” In a story first reported by The Daily Beast, siblings identified only as Jane Doe, now 22, and John, now 15, allege that Haddish and MADtv alum Aries Spears coerced them into filming sexually suggestive scenes when they were minors for various comedy sketches.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in California’s Superior Court for Los Angeles County by Jane, suing Haddish and Spears on behalf of herself and her younger brother, John. Per People, Jane alleges in her suit that the defendants “groomed” the sister and brother when they were 14 and seven years old, respectively, leaving them both “traumatized for life.”
In a statement made to Vanity Fair, Haddish’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, categorically denied the claims presented in the lawsuit, calling them “meritless” and saying that the plaintiff’s mother, Trizah Morris, has “been trying to assert these bogus claims against Ms. Haddish for several years.”
“Every attorney who has initially taken on her case—and there were several—ultimately dropped the matter once it became clear that the claims were meritless and Ms. Haddish would not be shaken down,” Brettler’s statement continues. “Now, Ms. Morris has her adult daughter representing herself in this lawsuit. The two of them will together face the consequences of pursuing this frivolous action.”
Per The Daily Beast, the plaintiff claims Haddish was a close friend of her mother’s—so much so that she and her brother would call Haddish “Auntie Tiff.” In 2013, the plaintiff, then 14, claims that Haddish appeared as a guest speaker at a comedy summer camp she was attending, and had her film a video also produced by Spears that Haddish allegedly claimed would help Jane Doe get on TV.
The video, per the suit, was a “sexually suggestive Subway commercial,” in which Haddish and Spears allegedly filmed Jane Doe performing inappropriate sexual acts on a sandwich. According to the complaint, Jane was instructed to mimic a video that ended with and older man and woman “moaning and making sexual noises as they both ate the sandwich in a manner that simulated the act of fellatio,” which made the plaintiff “physically, emotionally, and mentally uncomfortable.”
The lawsuit goes on to claim that the plaintiff’s brother, John Doe, was molested by Spears in 2014 while shooting another comedy video—titled “Through a Pedophile’s Eyes”—under the pretense that he was filming a reel for Nickelodeon. In the complaint, the plaintiff claims that she and her brother John, then seven, went to Spears’s house, but that they were separated so that John could film the video alone with Spears. In the video, according to The Daily Beast, Haddish plays John’s guardian, who leaves him alone with Spears. According to NBC News, the suit claims that Spears “leers at the child lustfully” in multiple scenes, massages John with oil, and gets into a bathtub with him. The video reportedly concludes with the message, “Watch who you leave your kids with!” The suit claims that “after filming, Mr. Doe called his mother crying, saying he did not want to film anymore.”
Haddish allegedly paid Jane and John Doe $100 each for their respective videos. According to the suit, Spears told Morris that the footage of her son had been deleted. But it alleges that the video was in fact uploaded to the comedy website Funny or Die before being removed in 2018. In a statement to The Daily Beast, a representative for Funny or Die said the following, “Funny or Die found this video absolutely disgusting and would never produce such content. We were not involved with the conceptualization, development, funding, or production of this video. It was uploaded to the site as user-generated content and was removed in 2018 immediately after becoming aware of its existence.”
Haddish and Spears are being sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, sexual battery, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse of a minor. Haddish is also being sued for negligent supervision/failure to warn, breach of fiduciary duty, and constructive fraud. Spears’s attorney, Debra Opri, has also denied the claims lodged against her client and told VF that Spears “isn’t going to fall for any shakedown.”
Both the plaintiff and her brother claim that they’ve suffered immense emotional and psychological damage since these incidents. Jane Doe, per the suit, is “is scared she will be taken advantage of again and led down a path of false trust like the path that Haddish led her down.” According to the suit, John Doe has “a social disorder, depression, and anxiety,” and “stays in his room at home and places Band-Aids over the cameras on his electronics for fear of being watched or recorded.” Their mother has allegedly faced significant mental health issues as well, leading to Jane becoming John’s legal guardian.