The Scandalous Lawsuit Usher Would Like You To Forget About

In a more simple media age, so-called "fixers" were able to sweep the scandals of even the biggest stars under the rug. Publicists, managers, and executives could keep drunken brawls, sex scandals, and even deaths from shredding the public image of actors and singers. It's a type of work that's still practiced today. But in a time where the power of stardom is blunted and digital media hardly lets any scandal die completely, any skeleton that makes it out of the closet isn't getting back in — something that singer-songwriter Usher Raymond IV (or Usher, as you likely know him) knows only too well.

In 2017, the tabloid Radar Online broke the story that Usher was accused of carrying herpes, which he allegedly contracted sometime between 2009 and 2010. The piece said that he was, for the most part, asymptomatic, and he reportedly claimed that his STD tests were negative when he entered into a sexual relationship with a woman after his 2009 divorce from Tameka Foster. Three weeks after having unprotected sex, the woman became feverish and developed troubling vaginal symptoms, which her doctors later confirmed to be herpes.

Hiding a herpes diagnosis from a sexual partner is against the law in California, and the woman confronted Usher about their encounter and the toll it had taken on her, physically and mentally. Radar Online claimed he provided money for her medical bills and in 2012 settled a lawsuit she filed for $1.1 million.

Once the story broke, more accusers came forward

After the story broke that Usher allegedly engaged in unprotected sex without disclosing his herpes diagnosis, more accusations followed swiftly. Within days of Radar Online's article, TMZ reported that Usher was facing another lawsuit, this time to the tune of $10 million. The plaintiff, Laura Helm, alleged that earlier in 2017, she and Usher engaged in unprotected sex, and that the first she learned of his alleged STD was when she read the coverage of his earlier settlement. While the woman initially did not claim to be infected with herpes herself, she argued that she never would have had sex with him had he been forthright about his reported condition. She sought damages for, among other things, the emotional distress of being exposed to an STD. When she later tested positive, she raised the number she sought to $20 million.

That August, three more people accused Usher of not disclosing his purported illness before engaging in unprotected sex with them, as well as sexual battery and fraud. Quantasia Sharpton and two anonymous plaintiffs filed a suit of their own, and attorney Lisa Bloom told the Los Angeles Times that she'd heard from others with similar stories. One of her unnamed plaintiffs claimed to have contracted herpes after sex with Usher and considered the disease responsible for the stillbirth of her twin children.

The lawsuits were settled or dismissed

Usher did not initially comment on any of the accusations. But not long after the 2017 lawsuits were filed, gossip site Sandra Rose claimed to have seen proof that the singer not only didn't have herpes, but that Radar Online's report on the 2012 settlement was false. Usher later issued an official statement denying having herpes. He also sought to dismiss Laura Helm's suit, arguing that she offered no proof, didn't discuss whether she had been tested before their encounter, and would have known the risks of getting an STD from unprotected sex. Later, TMZ obtained a recorded phone call by Helm to a publicist, in which she reportedly claimed that she and Usher always had protected sex and she wasn't worried about herpes. This cast doubt on her story, though Helm claimed she lied to the publicist to try and avoid salacious news coverage.

Helm asked to have her suit dismissed in 2019, with prejudice. While neither she nor Usher said more than that they had reached "an amicable solution," dismissal with prejudice is often an indication that a financial settlement has been reached (per TMZ). Usher's insurance company later filed suit against him in relation to the case, claiming that they didn't cover legal action related to STDs, but The Blast reported they dropped their suit by the end of 2019. The outlet reported that Quantasia Sharpton's suit was also dropped that year, though as with Helm, no settlement was publicly disclosed.