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British performer Russell Brand accused of sexual assault in New York lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: Scenes outside the Wembley Park Theatre where British comedian and actor Russell Brand is performing, in northwest London

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - British actor-comedian Russell Brand was accused in a lawsuit filed on Friday of sexually assaulting a film extra on the New York City set of the 2011 romantic comedy "Arthur," in which he starred as a boozing, philandering heir to a fortune.

The suit follows a recent flurry of allegations reported in the British news media against the 48-year-old performer by several women accusing him of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior, some dating back 20 years.

British police have said they were investigating a number of the allegations, but the New York lawsuit filed on Friday marks the first such accusation leveled in court.

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It was brought in state court under New York's Adult Survivors Act, which gives accusers a one-year window to sue over alleged sexual abuse from a long time ago, even if statutes of limitations have expired.

Warner Bros Pictures, which distributed "Arthur," also was named as a defendant, along with other companies involved in the film production. They were accused of negligence and of aiding and abetting Brand by tolerating his misconduct on the set.

Brand in September denied on his social media channels having ever engaged in non-consensual sex. His representatives in New York and London did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the newly filed lawsuit. Neither did Warner Bros.

The complaint was brought by a woman identified only as Jane Doe who said she was hired to appear as a cast "extra" in a scene from "Arthur" filmed at Le Cirque restaurant in Manhattan in July of 2010.

The film, a box office dud that drew generally negative reviews, was a remake of a highly successful 1981 movie starring Dudley Moore in the title role as a drunken New York City millionaire on the brink of an arranged marriage to a wealthy heiress when he falls for a free-spirited, working-class woman.

According to the lawsuit, Brand was visibly intoxicated during the production and exposed his genitalia to the plaintiff as he sat at a table staring at her, "openly and obviously in the presence of everyone on set," including film studio employees who treated his behavior as acceptable.

Afterward, the complaint alleges, Brand followed the woman into a restroom, where he again pulled down his pants, then shoved her into a stall and forced her to perform oral sex on him, all while a production crew member stood directly outside as if to guard the door.

The accuser says the assault caused "severe psychological injuries" and economic losses.

The suit seeks unspecified money damages from Brand on grounds of assault, battery, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress.

Brand, the former husband of U.S. pop singer Katy Perry and once one of Britain's most high-profile comedians and broadcasters, had repositioned himself in recent years as an internet social commentator, logging more than 6 million followers on his YouTube channel.

YouTube in September said it had blocked Brand from earning further revenues from the online video platform in light of his alleged sexual misconduct.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)