A former child star is in grown-man legal trouble, according to a recent lawsuit. Immature (IMX) founding member Marques Houston and his longtime business associate Chris Stokes are being sued for not paying five workers on one of their recent theatrical releases on the streaming service UrbanFlix.
According to the complaint, Orville Allen, September Burks, Jamilla Cagnolatti, Shanya Steave, and Jaden Jackson are dragging the “Never Lie” lead singer into court.
They allege he and Stokes, who used to be his manager in the early part of his career, breached a contract with them when they were fired and not paid for the work they rendered on a television show called “Foster Law,” Radar Online reports.
Other claims in addition to the breach of contract and failure to pay timely wages, include costs incurred in connection with their roles and services on the show, negligent misrepresentation, and unlawful business practices. They are asking for $85,000 in unpaid wages and for a judge to award them unspecified damages.
This is not the first time that Stokes has been connected to unlawful business practices allegations.
The Chris Stokes Factor
Stokes is known for discovering child stars like Brandy, Immature, B2K (Omarion, Raz-B, Lil Fizz, and J-Boog), Jhene Aiko, Sevyn Streeter, Mila J, and Kevin McHale (Glee). One of those stars is his cousin, Raz B.
Since 2007, Stokes was accused by De’Mario Monte “Raz-B” Thornton of sexually assaulting him. In May 2023, the troubled artist recanted those allegations on a social media post that has been removed, according to the Rickey Smiley Morning Show.
The former vice president of A&M/Interscope Records and TUG (The Ultimate Group) founder, who has an estimated net worth of $3 million, ventured out of music in the ’90s, writing and directing films like “House Party 4” and later “You Got Served.”
He then maximized his talents as a screenwriter and director and started self-funding them as a producer. He is the multi-hyphenate show runner behind the movies “Somebody Help Me,” “Somebody Help Me 2,” “Battlefield America,” “No Vacancy,” and “Boogie Town.”
Stokes managed Houston as a child after he joined Immature in 1990 at the age of 9. By 1992 he had secured his first role in Hollywood as a voiceover actor in the animated film “Bébé’s Kids.” His next role was with his bandmates in Stokes’ “House Party 4” movie in 1994. However, Houston scored big by becoming a part of the “Sister, Sister” cast as the twins Tia and Tamera’s next-door neighbor Roger Evans.
The star, who has a net worth of $2.5 million, later was cast in a plethora of movies, many produced and directed by Stokes.
Becoming a Producer
The professional dynamics of Houston and Stokes changed in 2010 with them joining together to form Footage Films.
Under the company, Houston gained his first full writing and producer credit in 2015 with the film “Will to Love.” He also produced, wrote, and starred as an actor in the movie “The Stepmother,” a thriller.
He then produced other films such as “Running Out of Time” and “Til Death Do Us Part.”
Allegations Against Footage Films
In the “Foster Law” case, lawyers write, “Although each Plaintiff completed the services contemplated by the contract or substantially performed until termination by Footage Films, Defendants have still not paid any of the Plaintiffs for any of the services completed towards the production.”
Lawyers say Allen was hired at an hourly rate of $70 for 10 hours of work. He says he worked 16 days (384 hours) with 13.5 hours of overtime and is owed $35,000 in compensation.
Another plaintiff, Burkes, said Footage agreed to pay her a daily rate of $250 for 18 days, and she is owed $15,000 in damages. Jackson said he agreed to work for $200 per day and after weeks of working without a check, he asserts he is owed $15,000.
Steave said she is owed $10K for her work for a week’s worth of work, while Cagnolatti also says he is owed $10,000.
All parties say they “persistently” tried to reach Houston and Stokes to “resolve the nonpayment of funds which they were due.”
Still, “on multiple occasions, the Defendants would fail to respond to text and phone communications for months on end, all of which Plaintiffs experienced substantial financial hardship dealing with the unexpected drop in income in their respective business and personal lives,” lawyers state in the complaint.