Bill Cosby's Criminal Conviction Could Cost Him Millions in Civil Cases
Insiders say the comic’s designation as a "sexually violent predator" likely will open the door to big increases in damages potentially owed to the women suing him.
Bill Cosby is still fighting his conviction from behind bars, but, regardless of the final outcome, it will likely prove costly in his civil legal battles.
Many have likened the three to 10 years he was given Sept. 25 for the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand to a life sentence, but it's his designation as a sexually violent predator that could doom his defense against other accusers. "His veracity can be questioned in civil court," says former federal prosecutor Priya Sopori. "In a 'he said, she said' case, it makes a huge difference."
Cosby, 81, is currently sparring with nearly a dozen women who claim to have been assaulted by him, most of whom are suing for defamation after he denied their allegations. It's impossible to estimate exactly how much he could have to pay in damages, but experts agree it's likely to be a larger number now that he's been convicted. (He paid Constand $3.4 million to settle her civil suit in 2006.)
Perhaps the highest-profile of the fights is with former supermodel Janice Dickinson, who accuses Cosby of drugging and raping her in the 1980s and is suing over a 2014 press statement from Cosby's ex-lawyer Marty Singer that called her account "an outrageous defamatory lie."
As of press time, Cosby was waiting to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the matter, after an appeals court allowed Dickinson to pursue her claims. Now her lawyer Lisa Bloom has another arrow in her quiver. "California law allows me to argue that Bill Cosby has now been deemed a sexually violent predator and convicted felony sex offender, to corroborate Janice Dickinson's claim that he raped her. And I will," Bloom tells THR.
Both Bloom and Joe Cammarata, who represents seven other women who are suing Cosby for libel, say that having to conduct jailhouse depositions won't slow them down. "My clients were branded liars," says Cammarata. "That can have a significant deleterious effect, which translates into significant damages."
Litigator Bryan Sullivan, who isn't involved in the Cosby matters, says there's no question the sentence and designation will impact the civil cases. "It shows a pattern of predatory behavior against women, which likely would cause a jury to increase the damages award," he says.
Cosby's net worth is estimated to be around $400 million, but reports that he was seeking a $30 million loan to pay his mounting legal fees suggest the figure could be considerably lower.
Adds Sullivan: "Given the conviction and the number of accusers, I don't believe that there is much he can do to mitigate the financial losses, except to start settling the civil cases."
This story first appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.