9:42am PT by Eriq Gardner
Bill Cosby Accusers Ask Court to Rule He Admitted Liability for Spokespersons' Statements
Bill Cosby's civil troubles have taken a backseat to his criminal case, but that doesn't mean there isn't action in the lawsuit that accuses him of defaming Tamara Green and six other women.
In Massachusetts federal court, the embattled entertainer is on the defensive over denials of sexual abuse made by his publicist and lawyers. U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni has already rejected Cosby's motion to dismiss.
The case won't go to trial until Cosby faces a charge in Pennsylvania of sexually assaulting ex-Temple University employee Andrea Constand, but Mastroianni has allowed discovery in the civil lawsuit to proceed, and on Wednesday, Joseph Cammarata, the attorney for the women, brought a new motion for partial judgment on the pleadings.
Cosby's reps told news outlets that the assault claims by the women were "fabricated," "ridiculous" and "absurd," among other comments, and after the entertainer struck out in a bid to dismiss the lawsuit on the argument these comments were "opinions" and not "of and concerning" the defendants, Cosby filed his answer in court.
Cammarata now stresses that Cosby responded to allegations in the complaint by mostly stating they were either "conclusions or characterizations of law and therefore no response is required."
As such, the plaintiffs' lawyer argues that Cosby has disregarded rules of civil procedure and wants various allegations deemed admitted. It's an unusual motion. Usually, a defendant responds in cursory fashion, and if it's not deemed sufficient, a plaintiff will file a motion to strike and asks for an amendment.
Cammarata, though, has decided to test the judge to see how far he can go at this preliminary stage.
Specifically, the women are now asking Mastroianni to rule that Cosby is directly or vicariously liable for the publication of the statements at issue by his spokespersons. Additionally, they want the judge to find that the public knew that Cosby's spokespersons were speaking for Cosby; the statements were widely and foreseeably republished; the statements are of and concerning the plaintiffs; and that Cosby and his spokespersons acted with intent to cause the women emotional distress.
The women are likely to be seen as limited purpose public figures who will need to prove actual malice to prevail on their defamation claims. So Cammarata also wants the judge to find that Cosby acted with common law malice, acted with at least reckless disregard for whether the statements were true or would place the women in a false light, and that the spokespersons were negligent in failing to make a reasonable inquiry into the truth of statements before publishing them.
As far as damages, the plaintiffs additionally want the judge to rule that the reputations of the women were harmed through the statements and that they suffered emotional distress proximately caused by the statements.
Cosby is now represented by Angela Agrusa of Liner LLP, who will be tasked with opposing an order deeming these allegations admitted.