A Massachusetts federal court on Friday denied the embattled Bill Cosby‘s bid to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought by three women.
Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz are the plaintiffs in the case. The women allege that they were victimized by a sexual assault by Cosby. But because of statute of limitations, they can’t sue Cosby for this.
Instead, the three women claim to have had their reputations tarnished when Cosby’s reps told news outlets that the rape claims were “fabricated,” “ridiculous” and “absurd,” among other comments.
In an opinion today, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni rejects all of Cosby’s reasons to throw the lawsuit out at this juncture. He analyzes libel standards like whether the comments were “of and concerning” the defendants and whether the comments could be characterized as “predictable opinions.” The judge concludes that a jury could find those comments addressing the women and that the gist of the statements – basically that they fabricated a tale – is provable as true or .
This decision could prompt more lawsuits against Cosby as it also sets some precedent.
For one thing, Mastroianni addresses whether a celebrity can be liable for the comments of his reps.
“Given Defendant’s prominence in the entertainment field, the court infers he surrounded himself with people accomplished in media relations and legal matter,” writes the judge. “The court also infers those making Defendant’s public statements had an open line of communication with him as well as some historical perspective on his public relations matters. Based on the facts and inferences, the court finds it plausible at this point to conclude (1) those agents would have had, at a minimum, some sense of Defendant’s alleged conduct, such that their duty of care would have required them to take steps to determine the truth or falsity of the statements, and (2) the content of their responsive statements demonstrates such reasonable care was not taken.”
Mastroianni also rejects Cosby’s argument that he was within rights to make “privileged utterances of self-defense.”
The ruling will allow the defamation lawsuit against Cosby to proceed. The women are seeking unspecified monetary damages