Paul Haggis Rape Accuser Demands End to His Lawsuit

Paul Haggis - Getty - H 2017
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The shotgun beginning to the courtroom dispute between publicist Haleigh Breest and writer-director Paul Haggis has both sides claiming the other rushed lawsuits without much thought to the law itself.

On Dec. 15, Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) sued Breest for infliction of emotional distress after she allegedly demanded a $9 million payment to remain silent about a sexual abuse claim. A few hours later that day, Breest brought her own lawsuit against Haggis alleging he raped her in his New York apartment in January 2013.

Last week, Haggis' lawyer attacked her asserted claim of a crime of violence motivated by gender as Breest's attorneys attempted to add an "inadvertently omitted" assault claim to the case.

Now, in his lawsuit, Breest is demanding dismissal of what's characterized as both a "rapist's attempt to silence and intimidate his victim" and a "public relations stunt."

What's in focus here is what happened before the filing of litigation. The two sides were certainly in discussion with each other for about a month. According to the court papers, Haggis' attorneys received Breest's not-yet-filed complaint and an invitation to discuss resolution. Later, Breest's attorneys made a settlement demand. Then, came the dueling lawsuits.

"Since [Breest] has threatened to file and publicize lurid factual (and false) assertions against [Haggis] unless he agrees to let her effectively bankrupt him, [Haggis] has experienced severe emotional distress, while simultaneously trying to go on with his life without letting it paralyze him," he stated in his complaint. 

True or not, Breest's attorneys at Emery Celli say this can't possibly form the basis of a viable claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

Haggis "seeks to transform a routine settlement discussion among lawyers into an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim," writes Breest's attorneys. "If this claim survives a motion to dismiss, it will be the end of demand letters and settlement discussions. It will be: sue first, ask questions later."

The attorneys add that privileged settlement discussions are "not outrageous conduct" nor is "threatening to sue to enforce legal rights."

Seeking sanctions against Haggis, Breest's lawyers say settlement discussions are and should be encouraged — and that IIED claims are almost always dismissed.

The motion to dismiss gives historical examples and then adds, "If death threats, false statements to the police causing arrest, exposure of rape victims, illegal eviction of wife and children from their home, defamation of a co-worker with accusations of racism, and repeated vandalism of a home are insufficient to plead IIED, an invitation to settle a civil claim before litigation cannot suffice."