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In 2017, nearly a decade after she finished her tenure as a Fox News anchor, Laurie Dhue settled claims that Bill O’Reilly had sexually harassed her. But O’Reilly himself wasn’t a party to Dhue’s settlement agreement with Fox. Nevertheless, O’Reilly is now arguing that he’s a third-party beneficiary of this agreement and that Dhue must submit herself to arbitration in order to pursue her defamation claims against him.
Dhue filed her lawsuit against O’Reilly in March. She alleges that the former O’Reilly Factor host smeared her when reports of his alleged sexual misconduct surfaced in the press and he painted himself as the victim.
In a separate lawsuit, O’Reilly is also being sued by Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Diamond, and Rachel Witlieb Bernstein for defamation and breaking confidentiality. But there are notable differences in this other case: The three women are also suing Fox News. And Mackris and Diamond had directly settled misconduct claims against O’Reilly previously. As a result, O’Reilly is looking to halt that suit by seeking to enforce the arbitration provisions that Mackris and Diamond signed while pausing Bernstein’s claim as an arbitration with Fox plays out.
O’Reilly can’t do the same when it comes to Dhue as he admits he wasn’t a contracting party, so on Monday, his attorneys at Hoguet Newman attempted a different tactic.
“By entering the Agreement, Dhue released all of her claims against O’Reilly, not just her claims against non-parties,” states a memorandum in support of dismissal. “O’Reilly is thus an intended third-party beneficiary of the Agreement with standing to enforce its terms.”
O’Reilly points to the agreement — a redacted version is lodged as an exhibit and appears to indicate that Dhue also had made claims against another individual at Fox News — and the circumstances surrounding the deal to argue that it was the parties’ intent to resolve Dhue’s allegations with “finality and discretion not just for itself but also O’Reilly.”
His attorneys are also making the argument that Dhue is estopped from avoiding arbitration because her claim in the lawsuit is “intertwined” with the subject matter of the agreement.
If all that doesn’t work, O’Reilly is also arguing that Dhue has failed to state a proper claim for defamation by saying she failed to plead plausible grounds to infer actual malice, that his general statements denying sexual harassment were not “of and concerning” Dhue, and that his statements weren’t susceptible to a defamatory meaning in that Dhue wasn’t exposed to shame, ridicule or disgrace.
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