Bill Cosby Avoids Liability for PR Reps’ Statements Over Sexual Assault Claims

By | October 19, 2016

Massachusetts federal judge Mark Mastroianni has rejected a bold attempt to pin liability on Bill Cosby over what his spokespersons told the press in reaction to women who accused the entertainer of sexual assault.

Cosby is facing a defamation lawsuit from seven women over statements from his reps that the assault claims were “fabricated,” “ridiculous” and “absurd.” In October 2015, Mastroianni allowed the lawsuit to proceed by declining Cosby’s motion to dismiss.

Last month, Joseph Cammarata, the attorney for the women, filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings.

Cammarata pointed to Cosby’s generalized responses in the answer to the complaint. There, Cosby’s lawyers addressed various allegations by asserting they were either “conclusions or characterizations of law and therefore no response is required.”

Bill Cosby (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Bill Cosby
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The lack of specific denials, argued Cammarata, was a violation of civil procedure. The judge was asked to rule that Cosby admitted being liable for the publication of the statements, that the public knew that Cosby’s spokespersons were speaking for Cosby, that the statements were widely and foreseeably republished, that the statements are of and concerning the plaintiffs, and that Cosby and his spokespersons acted with intent to cause the women emotional distress.

On Friday, Mastroianni denied the motion.

The judge’s order states he “rejects Plaintiffs’ claim that a judgment on the pleadings is the relief available for these assertions of deficiencies in Defendant’s answer.”

Mastroianni also notes that Cammarata’s arguments would have more properly brought as a motion to strike and knocked Cammarata for making an untimely challenge.

Criminal Case

The civil case is taking a back seat to the criminal one that Cosby is facing in Pennsylvania for allegedly sexually assaulting ex-Temple University employee Andrea Constand. But discovery and other activity in the defamation case proceeds.

In the Constand case, a Pennsylvania appeals court this week turned down an attempt by Cosby’s lawyers to review how the prosecution could only be proven through hearsay evidence. Nevertheless, Cosby’s team has come forward with a protest to an alleged violation of the entertainer’s due process rights.

There are more big fireworks to follow in the Constand case, which is currently scheduled to go to trial in the middle of next year.

For example, a status report filed on Oct. 11 in the defamation lawsuit reports that Cosby has until Nov. 8 to file a motion to change venue in the criminal matter. Cosby could potentially see some advantage to moving the Costand case away from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where his non-prosecution for more than a decade became a politically charged issue in the election of the District Attorney who is now pursuing the entertainer.

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