Local News

February 20, 2008

Reality-like TV show results in lawsuit

Placid woman beaten as TV cameras roll

ELIZABETHTOWN -- A Lake Placid woman is suing ABC News for failing to help her after she was videotaped being beaten by her stepfather.

Kyle Nelson, 20, is suing ABC News; its parent corporation, the Walt Disney Co.; ABC's president, David Weston; and several individuals, including news anchor Diane Sawyer, claiming negligence.

The civil action, filed Wednesday morning in Essex County Court in Elizabethtown, claims "wanton and reckless behavior" and "gross negligence" for ABC's failure to assist the young woman.

The lawsuit involves video footage that ABC included in a "Primetime" segment called "Stepfamilies in Crisis" showing Kyle being held down and punched repeatedly by Joe Nelson, her stepfather.

He called her a "little bitch" as he struck her.

Kyle was 15 at the time.


ABC aired the news show on April 21, 2006, three to four years after capturing hundreds of hours of video at the Nelson household in Vermontville.

The segment drew outrage from viewers, who responded with thousands of e-mails to ABC questioning the news company's ethics for not stepping in to stop or report the abuse.

ABC responded to the fury at the time with a statement posted on their 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."

Diane Sawyer, an anchor for "Primetime," interviewed Kyle on "Good Morning America" four days after the show aired.

The teen said she did not condone her stepfather's behavior but forgave him for the abuse.

Before the show aired, she moved out of the household to live with her maternal grandparents, according to her attorney, Matthew Norfolk of Briggs Norfolk, LLP in Lake Placid, who filed the action.


Kyle, now 20, suffers lasting effects from the abuse and ABC's promotion of it, Norfolk said.

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