Country star Luke Combs issued a public apology to a Florida woman ordered to pay $250,000 for using his likeness on fan merchandise she sold online — and the "Fast Car" singer promised to pay her back double the money that was frozen in the legal action.
Nicol Harness, of Pinellas County, has congestive heart failure and makes her living by selling tumblers and t-shirts on Amazon, she told NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa.
A big fan of Combs, she sold 18 tumblers on her online shop, making just $380 from those sales.
She had no idea she was sued by Combs in October in a copyright infringement case filed in Illinois federal court against her and a slew of other online shops. Harness told WFLA the email notice of the suit went to her spam folder.
The case closed on Nov. 15, when a judge found she was liable for federal trademark infringement and counterfeiting. She was banned from using his trademarks and ordered to pay statutory damages of $250,000.
Harness said that's money she doesn't have.
“It’s very stressful. I don’t have money to pay my bills. I just want this resolved. I didn't mean any harm to Luke Combs. I quit selling the tumbler. I pulled it down. I just don’t understand,” she told WFLA in an interview that published Tuesday.
One day after Harness' interview went live, Combs took to social media to apologize to her, saying he felt "sick to my stomach".
“I woke up at 5 a.m. to use the restroom and the first thing I saw is this: a woman that’s being sued by me for $250,000. I spent the last two hours trying to make this right, trying to figure out what’s going on because I was completely and utterly unaware of this," he said in a video on Instagram.
"So, we do have a company that goes after folks, only supposedly large corporations operating internationally, that make millions and millions of dollars making counterfeit t-shirts, things of that nature, running illegal businesses," the singer explained. "And apparently this woman, Nicol, has somehow got wrapped up in that."
Combs said he spoke to Harness on Wednesday morning.
"She told me she was absolutely shocked by this. I'm so apologetic. Talking to her, it makes me sick honestly that this would happen, especially at the holidays," he said.
Combs said Harness told him she had $5,500 locked in her Amazon account. Under the judge's ruling, the online shop accounts' money would frozen and go towards the $250,000 they were ordered to pay Combs.
"I'm gonna double that send her $11,000 today just so she doesn’t have anything to worry about," Combs said. "She was never supposed to be involved in anything like this. No fan should be involved in anything like this."
He also said he would make a tumbler to be sold on his official merchandise website and proceeds will go to "Nicol and her family to try to help with her medical bills."
"I invited Nicol and her family out to a show this year so I can give her a hug and say sorry in person," he said to his fans. "And yeah, I love you guys. I just wanted to clear that up because it makes me sick for anybody to be thinking I'm this kind of person."