Huffpost Media

Girl Sues ABC For Airing Footage Of Stepfather Abusing Her On "Primetime"

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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. — A woman who was shown on an ABC News program being beaten by her stepfather sued the network Wednesday, claiming negligence and recklessness.

The lawsuit addresses video footage included in a "Primetime" segment called "Stepfamilies in Crisis" that aired in 2006 and shows Kyle Nelson, then 15, being held down, berated and punched.

The footage was taken from hundreds of hours captured at the home several years before the show was aired. Viewers responded with thousands of e-mails questioning why ABC didn't step in to stop or report the abuse.

ABC responded at the time with this statement on its Web site: "While we felt the incident in question was disturbing, it was the only scene of physical punishment in the hundreds of hours of footage that ABC News reviewed."

The stepfather, Joe Nelson, acknowledged on tape that he had struck Kyle.

The suit was filed by Nelson, now 20, in Essex County Court and names ABC News; its parent corporation, the Walt Disney Company; ABC's president, David Weston; news anchor Diane Sawyer; producer David Sloan; and three psychologists associated with the "Primetime" special.

Attorney Matthew Norfolk, who filed the suit on Nelson's behalf, said the young woman suffers lasting effects from the abuse and ABC's airing of it. He said she moved out of the abusive household to live with her maternal grandparents before the show aired.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages; a permanent injunction against ABC showing the film of the abuse again; and a judgment compelling ABC to fulfill its promises to provide the woman with counseling, Norfolk said.

"We maintain that a situation of continual, ongoing child abuse could have been stopped by ABC," Norfolk told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican.

Paige Capossela, a spokeswoman for ABC News, said the network hadn't been served with any lawsuit as of Wednesday evening and had no comment.

The lawsuit requests damages on eight claims relating to the "Primetime" segment, including failure to rescue the girl; promotion of a hostile, hazardous, unsafe and abusive atmosphere; invasion of privacy; failure to report abuse; and publication of the girl's condition and mental-health status.