Seven Women Suing Bill Cosby Reach Settlement in Defamation Case with AIG

Seven women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, and then sued him for defamation when his representatives accused them of lying, have settled their claims in their long-running case, according to documents filed Friday in federal court in Massachusetts.

Source: NY Times | Published on April 8, 2019

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“The plaintiffs have settled their claims against Mr. Cosby,” a lawyer for the seven women, Joseph Cammarata, said in an interview. “Each of the plaintiffs is satisfied with the settlement.”

Mr. Cammarata said the details of the settlement were confidential. The deal still awaits a judge’s approval.

A spokesman for Mr. Cosby confirmed that a settlement had been reached, but insisted Mr. Cosby was not paying. Instead, he said, Mr. Cosby’s insurance company, American International Group, was.

“Mr. Cosby did not settle any cases with anyone,” said the spokesman, Andrew Wyatt. “He is not paying anything to anyone.”

Mr. Wyatt added: “A.I.G. decided to settle these cases, without the knowledge, permission and/or consent of Mr. Cosby. Mr. Cosby vehemently denies the allegations brought against him in these defamation suits, and he maintains his innocence.”

The defamation claims are separate from Mr. Cosby’s criminal case in Pennsylvania, in which he was found guilty last year of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, Andrea Constand, at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. Mr. Cosby, 81, is serving a sentence of three to 10 years at a maximum-security prison, although he has appealed the verdict and continues to maintain his innocence.

After they came forward with their own accusations of sexual assault, the seven women could not sue Mr. Cosby on grounds directly related to their accusations because the statute of limitations for such cases had expired. Instead, they filed defamation suits, asserting that they had been branded liars.

Mr. Cosby denied all the allegations, and fought the claims in the suit, first filed in 2014 by one woman, Tamara Green, and subsequently joined by others: Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, Louisa Moritz, and Angela Leslie. (Ms. Moritz, an actress, died in January at age 72.)

Mr. Cosby also filed counterclaims against the women, saying they had tarnished his reputation by their actions. Mr. Wyatt, his spokesman, said that despite the A.I.G. settlement, Mr. Cosby would still pursue these counterclaims against the women.

As the case has proceeded, Mr. Cosby’s legal bills have mounted, but he is covered by a home insurance policy that provides “personal injury” coverage in a range of circumstances, including lawsuits that accuse the policy holder of defamation.

A.I.G. tried to limit its exposure, arguing in court that it was not compelled to cover claims stemming from sexual misconduct. But judges in Massachusetts and California sided with Mr. Cosby. Matthew Gallagher, a spokesman for A.I.G., said on Friday that the company could not comment on a specific case.

Other women filed lawsuits against Mr. Cosby, and three other cases remain active in courtrooms around the country.

In one of the cases, filed in California, Janice Dickinson, the former model who says Mr. Cosby raped her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 1982, has accused him of defamation. Ms. Dickinson’s lawyer said that she has had no settlement discussions.

In the two other cases, the two women were able to bring suits related directly to their accusations of sexual assault.

The civil suits had largely been on hold while the criminal trial played out. In the Massachusetts case, Mr. Cosby’s wife, Camille, had been deposed. Mr. Cammarata said that if Mr. Cosby continued to pursue the counterclaims against the women, he would continue with his plan to depose Mr. Cosby in prison in Pennsylvania and seek other documents and evidence.

Mr. Cosby’s official Twitter feed, managed by his representatives, posted several messages on Friday proclaiming that he had not agreed to the settlement, with hashtags including #BillCosbyDeniedSettlement, #AIGSettlesWithoutBillCosbyConsent and #BillCosbyWillNotPayADime.”

As a matter of practice, insurance companies do not necessarily need a client’s permission to settle a case. Mr. Gallagher, the A.I.G. spokesman, said that “certain insurance policies provide insurers with the authority to resolve claims when the insured has been informed.”

Asked whether Mr. Cosby would agree to release A.I.G. from its responsibility to cover him so he could continue to fight the women’s lawsuits on his own, his spokesman said that Mr. Cosby “will not be handling anything, because A.I.G. is his carrier.”