Tonya Cooley and MTV settle 'The Challenge' sexual assault lawsuit
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/30/2012
Tonya Cooley and MTV have apparently reached a deal following a year-long dispute over a rape lawsuit.
Tonya Cooley and MTV have reached a settlement after the former reality TV star filed a lawsuit one year ago claiming she had been sexually assaulted by fellow cast members while competing on The Ruins season of the network's The Challenge series and unlawfully sent home after complaining about the incident, according toThe Hollywood Reporter.
In a complaint filed in late October of last year, Cooley alleged to the Los Angeles Superior Court that she had passed out drunk during filming and woke up with lacerations and abrasions on her genital area, which she later learned were caused by two male cast members inserting a toothbrush into her vagina while she was unconscious, E! News reported at the time.
In the lawsuit -- which named MTV, The Ruins' Bunim/Murray Productions production company and alleged assailants Kenneth Santucci and Evan Starkman as defendants -- the former The Real World Chicago star reportedly alleged her assailants were never punished by The Ruins producers nor did the executives ever notify her of the assault.
Cooley sued for sexual battery, sexual harassment, assault, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination. She claimed the show's producers, whom Cooley believed condoned the treatment due to lack of action and providing extensive amounts of alcohol during filming, told her to "just deal with it" and kicked her off the show when she voiced her concerns about various offensive incidents.
In January, MTV parent Viacom Media Networks responded to Cooley's filings by arguing they weren't liable because they had never developed an "employment relationship" with her and enforced an "open-door policy with complaint procedures" which Cooley neglected to utilize, according to The Reporter.
Viacom reportedly insisted Cooley also didn't necessarily practice good behavior and self restraint while competing on her edition of The Challenge series, which was filmed in Phuket, Thailand and aired on MTV in 2009.
"In addition to failing to avail herself of VMN's policies and complaint procedures, Plaintiff failed to avoid the injuries of which she complains. For example, while she was a contestant on The Ruins, Plaintiff was frequently intoxicated (to an extent far greater than other contestants), rowdy, combative, flirtatious and on multiple occasions intentionally exposed her bare breasts and genitalia to other contestants," according to Viacom's papers, The Reporter reported.
In their own defense, Viacom also reportedly claimed the show simply sent Cooley home because she had "violently struck another contestant."