Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bill Cosby Now Facing Both Sexual Assault and Defamation Claims

As reported by CNN here , Bill Cosby is now not only facing civil claims for damages for sexual assault but, also claims for defamation of character based upon his denials of the sexual assault allegations and his representatives accusing the alleged victims of being "liars".  Cosby's attorney, Martin Singer has made the following statements:

It is "ridiculous" that "so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years."

Based upon these and other statements, at least three prior, alleged victims are now joining in a suit for defamation against Mr. Cosby.  Under California law, these claims will be subject to proof that the statements were made, that they are attributable to Cosby, that they are false and that they tend to diminish the reputation of the person to whom they refer.  If the plaintiffs are deemed to be "private figures" (non-celebrities), they would also need to show that Cosby failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of the statements.  If the plaintiffs are deemed to be "public figures" (i.e. person who have placed themselves in the "public eye"), the claimants will have to prove the Cosby knew that the statements were false when they were made.

It will be interesting to see how this litigation unfolds.  The largest hurdle to civil claims for sexual assault in this case is the "statute of limitations" (time deadline on filing a claim).  However, the defamation claims are not subject to a time limitation running from when the alleged sexual assaults occurred but, rather from when the alleged defamatory statements were made.