He scored a few victories today, but Bill Cosby was not able to completely walk away from Janice Dickinson’s nearly year-long defamation case against him, and it could be heading to trial. Allowing some elements of the case to go forward, granting and denying some of the anti-SLAPP motion and lifting a discovery stay, Judge Debre Weintraub issued a long and dense tentative ruling this morning in a hearing in L.A. Superior Court. Part of the ruling said that “plaintiff can not demonstrate” that she will prevail over the activities protected by the anti-SLAPP statue on the November 18, 2014 statements to the press by then-Cosby lawyer Marty Singer. That correspondence is considered protected speech.
However, the widely distributed November 19 2014 statement in which Hollywood heavyweight lawyer Singer called Dickinson’s allegation that she was drugged and raped by Cosby in 1982 a “lie” and other things is not protected, said Weintraub. That press statement “may be actionable,” the judge added today. “Either the rape did occur or it did not occur and Dickinson is either telling the truth or not telling the truth,” said Weintraub. Dickinson “has demonstrated a provable assertion of fact in the November 19” statement and it up to “the jury” at one point to address.
“It cannot be disputed that both plaintiff and defendants are celebrities,” noted Weintraub today, and hence the statements at the heart of the defamation case are “of public interest.” While no trial date has been given, a May 17 status conference was also set.
“This a huge win for us,” Dickinson’s main lawyer Lisa Bloom told Deadline after the hearing. “The November 18 statement only went out to two outlets, but the November 19 one went out to hundreds.” In a statement Cosby’s lawyers said “the Court granted Mr. Cosby’s motion in part and struck half the bases upon which plaintiff filed her lawsuit.” They added, “We believe the remainder of the lawsuit should be dismissed as well and will be considering Mr. Cosby’s options on appeal.”
The former America’s Next Top Model judge first sued Cosby last May for defamation for the statements Singer made in late 2014 calling her story of a 1982 drugging and rape by Cosby a “lie” and that Dickinson was a “liar.” “There is no evidence that Mr. Singer ever investigated” if the alleged rape ever occurred in Lake Tahoe in the early ’80s, asserted Weintraub today.
In details similar to what more than 5o other women have described, Dickinson claimed the alleged rape occurred over 30 years ago, but she never included mention of it in her 2002 autobiography or significant other public venues. “If the rape did actually occur the plaintiff’s present story is true” then not mentioning the “horrific incident” in her book could have come out of fear of litigation, pressure or other action from Cosby, the judge noted, countering an argument the defense made. After being added to the matter as a defendant in an amended complaint, Singer was removed from the case on February 9.
Represented by attorneys Bloom and Alan Goldstein, Dickinson, who announced Monday that she has breast cancer, was in court today. Cosby, represented by Christopher Tayback and others, was not. Singer also was not in the downtown LA courtroom.
This case has been through several twists and turns since it started with the free speech and anti-SLAPP motion made late last year by Cosby’ side,hitting the pause button on the civil matter for a brief time. Dickinson’s side soon challenged that stay and had it lifted. Additionally, a November 2 Weintraub-ordered deposition of Cosby and Singer was put on ice by the Appeals Court and the matter was kicked back to the lower court until the anti-SLAPP motion was determined.
Today’s hearing comes as Cosby faces many accusers and a number of legal actions across the country. On March 1, pending a motion verdict, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania granted the once-beloved actor a temporarily stay in the lower court criminal charges stemming from an alleged 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand that could see Cosby behind bars for up to a decade.
The actor is also fighting Constand, her mother, her lawyers and the owners of the National Enquirer in federal court on claims they violated the confidentiality agreement around a 2006 settlement with the former Temple University employee. Additionally, with other cases in Massachusetts and more, Cosby is set to give a second deposition in the civil case of Judy Huth on April 7. Huth alleges that Cosby assaulted her in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old. Fighting it until the end, the actor gave a previous deposition in that case last fall in Boston.
Both Cosby’s and Dickinson’s teams today came up short in their respective attempts to get legal fees from the other side.