9:02am PT by Eriq Gardner
Bill Cosby Faces Defamation Lawsuit From Alleged Sex Abuse Victim
Bill Cosby's biggest threat isn't the many women who are now coming forward to accuse him of sexual abuse from years ago. Instead, Bill Cosby's biggest danger is Bill Cosby.
The comedian is now facing a lawsuit from Tamara Green, who claims that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby when she tried to help him find investors for a club in the 1970s. The woman isn't suing Cosby for the abuse but rather what's been said in recent months about the incident. In a defamation lawsuit being handled by a trial attorney who once represented Paula Jones against Bill Clinton, Green asserts that her reputation was hurt by being called a liar by Cosby through his publicist and lawyer. (The full complaint is below.)
The defamation claim figures to be tough, but it's not the impossible claim that's recognized by none other than Gloria Allred.
Last week, Allred held a press conference with three Bill Cosby accusers and made a proposal that Cosby waive the statute of limitations to remove the biggest stumbling block to sexual abuse claims. Allred said that her proposal would be fair to Cosby because it would give him the opportunity to test the merits of accusations.
Cosby didn't take the bait. He's remained silent in the past week, and his attorney hasn't responded to our request for comment on that offer.
Meanwhile, Cosby's reps have fired back at the one woman, Judy Huth, who dared to try out a sexual abuse claim. Huth's attorney seems to think he's found a loophole in the statute of limitations conferred to sexual battery claims in a section of California law that allows for the recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse discovered in the past three years. Huth will have to explain how it is exactly that she suffered "significant problems throughout her life" and yet only "discovered" the psychological injuries within the past three years. Cosby is demanding sanctions for the filing of the lawsuit, which pretty much explains why even an aggressive attorney such as Allred wouldn't dare sue Cosby for misbehavior that may have happened so long ago.
So if suing Cosby for sexual abuse is off the table, what's left? That's where Cosby's own actions now come into play.
One possibility is that Cosby might trip himself up by breaching any confidentiality obligations he has from prior settlements.
It's worth noting the peculiar statements by Cosby's lawyers in reaction to the many allegations. For instance, when this all went viral, one of Cosby's lawyers put out a statement that said, "Over the last several weeks, decades-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced." A few days later, Cosby's lawyer put out a joint statement with lawyers for Andrea Constand, an accuser who settled with the comedian in 2006. It said, "The statement released by Mr. Cosby's attorney over the weekend was not intended to refer in any way to Andrea Constand." In other statements, Cosby's lawyers have emphasized "new, never-before-heard claims … brand new claims … new women who just came forward … a new uncorroborated story."
A bit of an educated guess at the PR/legal strategy of Cosby's reps: They have no problem slamming those, like Janice Dickinson, who are coming forward publicly for the first time, and they will gladly attack the "media's breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration," but what they don't want to do is to give accusers cause to make an end-around on the statute of limitations and any settlements that might have previously been made.
In other words, if Cosby says an accuser isn't telling the truth — and yes, just because 19 women come forward with similar stories doesn't mean that #20 is being honest — he risks being sued for defamation.
Witness Green's new lawsuit against Cosby.
The complaint filed in Massachusetts federal court by attorney Joseph Cammarata says that Cosby undressed himself during the incident, took advantage of her and only stopped after Green upended a table lamp. Afterward, Cosby is said to have left two $100 bills on a coffee table. But the claim for defamation is premised on a Newsweek story that told of Green's claims and carried a comment by David Brokaw, Cosby's publicist, that according to the complaint "stated by innuendo, implied, and/or insinuated, that Defendant Cosby's drugging and sexual assault against Plaintiff Green never occurred, and therefore that Plaintiff Green lied and was a liar."
Here's the Newsweek story about Green. At the very end, a comment from Cosby's publicist appears. It says, "This is a 10-year-old, discredited accusation that proved to be nothing at the time, and is still nothing."
The lawsuit also mentions the response by Cosby lawyer Walter Phillips Jr. to a story in The Washington Post about Cosby's legacy in the wake of the scandal. The attorney commented, "Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or Tamara Lucier [her maiden name], and the incident she describes did not happen."
Time will tell whether the comments really amount to labeling the plaintiff a liar, whether Cosby is responsible for statements made by his reps and whether the reps knew or should have known that their responses were false. But at the very least, it's a public example of why in the midst of a media frenzy over the allegations, Cosby has chosen to remain silent about claims. Awkward maybe, but there's probably some purpose.