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Louisette Geiss, Sarah Ann Thomas and Melissa Thompson have voluntarily dismissed their claims against Harvey Weinstein. The move from the three women who accused the disgraced movie mogul of sexual misconduct comes in the wake of a settlement plan that was approved in January by a Delaware judge overseeing the bankruptcy of The Weinstein Company.
Geiss, Thomas and Thompson were the lead plaintiffs in an attempted class action against many individuals allegedly involved in the Weinstein scandal. A racketeering complaint targeted not just Weinstein but also board members of his former company as well as Miramax. Then, on April 18, 2019, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein gutted the putative class action by rejecting 17 of 18 claims — all but a sex trafficking count against Weinstein, later convicted of sex crimes and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Weinstein Co. insurers then worked with stakeholders on a settlement — one that established a $17 million sexual misconduct claims fund for victims. Importantly, though, the stakeholders involved in the bankruptcy (including the NY AG office) lacked power to get the women to drop claims against Harvey Weinstein. At least not directly. Instead, his accusers were incentivized.
Under the settlement plan, a sexual misconduct claims examiner reviews each claim that’s filed, along with the documents and statements offered in support of it, and assigns a “point award.” Those points will be used to determine how much money each woman receives. Accusers get the choice of releasing or not claims against Harvey Weinstein, but those who don’t will only receive 25 percent of their allotment from the victims fund.
Given that the class action lawyers behind the Geiss case were advocating for the settlement, the fact that their clients have now dropped the sex trafficking count against Weinstein shouldn’t be surprising. According to the dismissal notice, they reserve the ability to reinstate claims within 120 days if the sexual misconduct claims fund is not disbursed.
Other accusers, represented by separate attorneys, have objected to the settlement and are now pursuing an appeal. They don’t particularly like how the resolution has inoculated Weinstein Co. board members from liability. However, their emergency motion to pause implementation of the settlement pending the appeal was denied on Feb. 17.
Says Imran Ansari, an attorney for Weinstein, “By virtue of dismissing their cases against Mr. Weinstein and seeking finality by way of settlement in the bankruptcy court, the Plaintiffs in this case are taking advantage of the most certain recovery, in that they do not subject their accusations, that Mr. Weinstein denies, to the scrutiny of further discovery and trial, or confront an uncollectible judgment due to financial concerns.”
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