Kevin Hart sued by an ex-friend for allegedly botching a deal to clear that man's name

Kevin Hart is being sued for allegedly botching a settlement agreement that was meant to clear the name of a former friend, Jonathan “J.T.” Jackson, as it related to the events surrounding the comic’s sex-tape cheating scandal.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Jackson accused the “Get Hard” actor of not using the “meticulously negotiated” and agreed-upon wording from their 2021 settlement when he addressed the scandal in an Instagram post that same year, resulting in a $12-million breach of written contract lawsuit. The civil lawsuit, which lists Hart, Hartbeat LLC and several Does among the defendants, also accuses them of fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The 23-page complaint, obtained Wednesday by The Times, said Hart was contractually obligated by their July 2021 settlement to use “specific verbiage” that would “publicly exonerate” the Navy veteran, professional bowler and actor, who was entangled in legal issues in the wake of the scandal.

“The wording of Hart’s statement — which was meticulously negotiated and detailed in the Contract — was absolutely crucial to repairing and remediating the severe damage inflicted upon Plaintiff’s reputation by the baseless extortion allegations that Hart aggressively promoted and publicized,” the complaint said.

Jackson, 47, was the target of a January 2018 raid at his home in which he and his wife were held at gunpoint by investigators with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office who were looking into allegations of extortion, which he believes Hart initiated. The charges were eventually dropped by prosecutors (whom Jackson also sued in December), but Jackson claimed that his “reputation was unjustly tarnished due to a series of malicious actions by the defendants,” including when Hart and Hartbeat released the 2019 Netflix docuseries “Don’t F— This Up.”

The docuseries mentioned extortion and alleged that Jackson had been involved in the creation and dissemination of a sex tape that showed Hart and a woman who was not his wife getting intimate in a Las Vegas hotel room. (Both Jackson and Hart were also sued for $60 million by model Montia Sabbag, the woman who purportedly appeared with Hart in the tape, but that lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, and Jackson was cleared of all allegations.)

According to the new lawsuit, Jackson did not receive any money from his settlement agreement with Hart, as he believed their contract was “not about seeking compensation, but was a means to an end” that would clear Jackson’s name. Hart’s public statement, which was to include agreed-upon language, was crucial for Jackson’s exoneration, the complaint said, and Jackson entered into that contract “with the expectation that it would finally restore his reputation and allow Plaintiff to resume his professional life with integrity.”

Jackson alleged that Hart explicitly agreed in their written settlement to “pursue and advocate for the dismissal of all criminal charges” against Jackson and make a public statement exonerating him. Hart, he said, was required to say that criminal charges against Jackson had been dismissed, that Jackson had been fully cleared of any involvement in an extortion plot and that the legal debacle had cost Hart “a valuable friendship.”

The complaint further said that Hart was supposed to say that he had “lost someone close to me that I loved and still have very much love for or high levels of love for and I’m proud to say that all charges against JT Jackson have been dropped and he is not guilty and had nothing to do with it and this matter at hand that once was so tough to deal with and so heavy for me and my household is now put to bed.”

Instead, Hart’s Oct. 27, 2021, Instagram video “blatantly broke” their agreement and “manipulate[d] the narrative,” the complaint said. Hart ultimately said that “J.T. Jackson has recently been found not guilty, and those charges have been dropped against him, and I can finally speak on what I once couldn’t.” The comedian also said that their friendship “was lost” due to the legal process and noted his relief about the legal saga being over. He did not mention that Jackson “had nothing to do with it.”

“Hart’s statement deviates significantly from the agreed-upon verbiage in several crucial aspects,” Jackson’s attorney, Daniel L. Reback, argued in the complaint. “First, Hart’s stipulated verbiage explicitly required him to state that ‘all charges against [Jackson] have been dropped and he is not guilty and had nothing to do with it.’ However, Hart’s actual statement lacks the explicit declaration of Plaintiff’s innocence or non-involvement. Also, Hart’s agreed-upon statement was to acknowledge the incident’s heavy impact on the loss of a valuable friendship due to the legal matter, but Hart’s actual statement focuses entirely on Hart himself ‘moving on’ and does not directly acknowledge the significant personal and professional toll on Plaintiff as outlined in the Contract.”

In addition to $12 million, Jackson is seeking punitive damages to be determined at trial, legal costs and fees and injunctions requiring the defendants to exonerate him, as well as the removal of “all the false statements” about him in “Don’t F— This Up.”

In a statement to The Times, Reback added: “The facts in the complaint speak for themselves. We are confident that the lawsuit will end with Mr. Jackson’s complete victory and vindication.”

A spokesperson for Hart was not available Wednesday to respond to The Times’ request for comment.

Hart has spoken publicly about the sex-tape saga repeatedly over the years, apologizing to his wife, Eniko Parrish, who was pregnant with their first child at the time the tape was allegedly recorded in Las Vegas. Amid reports that an unidentified woman allegedly tried to extort him for a video featuring sexually suggestive content, Hart apologized to Parrish in a September 2017 Instagram video.

“I gotta do better and I will. I’m not perfect and have never claimed to be,” he wrote in the video’s caption. Months later, he confessed to the infidelity, telling “The Breakfast Club” in December 2017 that he had been “beyond irresponsible.”

“That’s Kevin Hart in his dumbest moment. That’s not the finest hour of my life,” he said. “With that being said, you make your bed, you lay in it. You can’t say what were you thinking, because you weren’t thinking.”

Times staff writer Alexandra Del Rosario contributed to this report.

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