6:43am PT by Eriq Gardner
Bill Cosby Tells Judge That Insurer Is Threatening His Defense Against Accusers
Bill Cosby is telling a Massachusetts federal judge that he shouldn't be forced to endure a "four-front battle" in efforts to get past allegations made by various women.
The entertainer is currently in court against Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz in Massachusetts as well as Janice Dickinson in California over whether these women were defamed when Cosby's reps denied the occurrence of sexual misconduct.
AIG Property Casualty Company has tentatively agreed to pick up Cosby's legal costs, but the insurer has also filed a lawsuit against Cosby aiming for declaratory relief that it's not responsible. Cosby's homeowners insurance does more than cover flood damage; it also covers him for "personal injury," which is defined in his policy as including “bodily injury”; “shock, emotional distress, mental injury”; “invasion of privacy”; and “defamation, libel, or slander.”
However, the policy contains an exclusion for "sexual, physical or mental abuse," setting the stage for a potentially novel legal battle over whether a defamation claim about the denial of sexual abuse is or isn't covered.
Cosby doesn't want to fight this one, though. At least not yet.
"Allowing the coverage lawsuits to continue would force Mr. Cosby to fight a multi-front war against both the underlying plaintiffs, in two lawsuits, and against AIG in two lawsuits, thereby draining resources, money and time that could be channeled into the defense against the Underlying Lawsuits," his lawyers write in a brief to support either a dismissal or stay of the AIG lawsuit. "Forcing Mr. Cosby to fight a four-front battle would demonstrate AIG’s complete disregard for the best interests of Mr. Cosby and would indisputably manifest itself in AIG directly impairing Mr. Cosby’s ability to defend himself in the Underlying Lawsuits."
The Cosby memorandum (read here) gets into some arguments why the insurer has a duty to cover him. For example, some of the supposed defamatory statements are said to not involve any alleged sexual misconduct but rather pertain to whether Cosby even knew the women or the extent of his involvement with them. Other statements are directed to non-actionable conduct happening decades ago. In other words, Cosby's attorneys argue what was said recently is more important than what was done way back in determining how to construe the insurance policy.
To fight the insurers right now, though, would mean "duplicative litigation," say Cosby's lawyers, necessitating investigation into the statements in controversy, the nature of Cosby's relationships with these women and his defenses.
Cosby says he can't afford this multi-front war, and further, it will harm his chances of prevailing. According to the memo, "Not only does AIG’s action bolster the underlying plaintiffs, who will perceive Mr. Cosby as under attack even from his supposed backers, but it splits Mr. Cosby’s focus and drains his resources."