11:40am PT by Ashley Cullins
The Weinstein Co. Asks Court to Toss Accusers' Racketeering Lawsuit
The Weinstein Co. is asking a New York federal judge to toss a racketeering lawsuit filed by a group of women who say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by ousted founder Harvey Weinstein.
Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Zoe Brock, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller and Nannette Klatt in December sued Harvey and Bob Weinstein, The Weinstein Co., Miramax and several other individuals. The suit followed a similar complaint in California federal court.
The women allege that they are among hundreds of others who were subjected to unwanted sexual conduct and lived in fear of being blacklisted by Harvey Weinstein and those around him, claiming "the Weinstein Sexual Enterprise" is essentially organized crime.
In a motion to dismiss filed Tuesday, TWC argues the alleged acts at the center of the complaint were committed by Weinstein alone, that the RICO claim and state law claims for assault, battery, emotional distress and negligence are time-barred and that the accusers failed to plead facts showing the conduct furthered the company's interests in any way.
"It defies logic to suggest that H. Weinstein somehow served TWC’s interests by advancing his own prurient interests or that TWC’s business plan was to lure potential actresses into business meetings with H. Weinstein so that he could assault them," states the filing, which is posted in full below. "Because Plaintiffs have failed to allege how TWC benefited from or participated in any alleged conduct, it is evident that H. Weinstein’s alleged conduct was fueled purely by personal motives and was outside the scope of his employment."
TWC also argues the women's allegations of witness tampering, wire and mail fraud and sex trafficking fail to meet the standards required for a racketeering claim.
"Plaintiffs also fail to plead facts demonstrating that any Plaintiff has standing to assert a RICO claim, which requires Plaintiffs to show that the alleged 'racketeering activity' was the proximate cause of an identifiable injury to their business or property," states the filing. "Further, none of the Plaintiffs have pleaded facts demonstrating any concrete, non-speculative injury to their business prospects, nor have they alleged how TWC’s alleged conduct was the direct cause of such injury."
TWC's legal team from Seyfarth Shaw asks the court to dismiss the complaint or, alternatively, strike the class allegations because the plaintiffs lack both standing and a legally cognizable interest in representing a class.
Weinstein later Tuesday filed his own motion to dismiss, also arguing the womens' claims are barred by the relevant statutes of limitations. In a footnote, attorney Phyllis Kupferstein says their claim that the statutes were tolled until the explosive New York Times expose was published last fall is absurd. "Taking Plaintiffs’ position to its logical extreme would be to maintain that, had it not been for The New York Times article being published, the statute of limitations would never have even started to run with respect to an alleged pattern of conduct going back to the 1980s," writes Kupferstein.
Weinstein also argues the class allegations should be stricken because the definition is fatally overbroad and would include "all women who ever met with Weinstein, regardless of whether they claimed to have suffered any identifiable harm" — such as Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep.
Feb. 21, 11:15 a.m. Updated with information from Harvey Weinstein's motion to dismiss the complaint.