11:34am PT by Eriq Gardner
Seven Bill Cosby Accusers Settle Defamation Suit Against Entertainer
In Massachusetts, an attorney for seven women told a federal judge on Friday that his clients are now satisfied by a settlement in a defamation suit against Bill Cosby for denying their stories of being sexually assaulted.
According to Cosby's spokesperson, the settlement was made by Cosby's insurer and that the comedian himself didn't know about the deal. "He is not paying anything to anyone," says Andrew Wyatt. "AIG decided to settle these cases, without the knowledge, permission and/or consent of Mr. Cosby."
Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, Louisa Moritz and Angela Leslie were part of the lawsuit originally filed in 2014. They alleged having their reputations tarnished when Cosby's reps told news outlets that their rape claims were "fabricated," "ridiculous" and "absurd," among other comments.
In a big decision, the women in 2015 beat Cosby's motion to dismiss. The judge ruled that the comments weren't privileged as self-defense, were more than non-actionable opinion and that the women could plausibly show actual malice. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni decided that the comments by Cosby's reps could be proved true or false despite other judges around the nation looking at the very same comments and concluding otherwise.
The case was then largely paused as Cosby faced criminal proceedings in Pennsylvania. The judge allowed limited discovery but otherwise decided that Cosby's Fifth Amendment rights required that the criminal case proceed first. Last year, Cosby was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand.
Cosby is appealing his criminal conviction, but in recent weeks, Judge Mastroianni indicated that he would lift the stay on the defamation case.
On Friday, Joseph Cammarata, an attorney for the women, reported a settlement but it doesn't fully resolve the case.
That's because Cosby has filed counterclaims against the women for defamation and interference in his NBC and Netflix deals.
Wyatt confirms that aspect.
"He is still pursuing his counterclaims," says the spokesperson. "He maintains his innocence."
Cammarata tells the judge if the stay of the case is lifted, he'll be bringing a summary judgment motion arguing that Cosby can't demonstrate actual malice, that Cosby's request for punitive damages fail, and that the tortious interference claims are duplicative of defamation. Additionally, the attorney reports that of the dozens of women who came forward to accuse Cosby of drugging and raping them, one of those accusers is no longer living. According to court papers, Moritz is now deceased. Cammarata says a claim against her must accordingly fail. Cammarata also says he still intends to take Cosby's deposition.