As yet another women went public today with claims that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her, The Weinstein Company itself has been hit with a $5 million civil suit over the alleged misconduct of its former co-chairman and its alleged knowledge of his behavior.
“Prior to the incident involving Plaintiff, Defendant TWC’s executives, officers and employees had actual knowledge of Weinstein’s repeated acts of sexual misconduct with women,” says the negligence complaint filed Tuesday by actress Dominique Huett in Los Angeles Superior Court, regarding a November 2010 incident at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“In particular, Defendant was aware of Weinstein’s pattern of using his power to coerce and force young actresses to engage in sexual acts with him,” the jury-seeking document (read it here) from attorneys at sexual abuse case specialists HermanLaw adds of TWC. “This knowledge was possessed by Defendant’s Board of Directors including, upon information and belief, Bob Weinstein.”
In a M.O. that has become familiar in recent weeks after the New York Times first published its exposé into sexual harassment claims against Weinstein on October 5, after asking “her to show him her breasts,” the now disgraced Oscar-winning producer allegedly invited Huett, the one-time Blue Bloods actress, up to his hotel room under the pretense of a meeting. Then, in his bathrobe according to Huett, Weinstein promised to help her career but then asked for a massage and to perform oral sex on her.
Huett says in the seven-page complaint that after repeatedly saying no to Weinstein, she agreed to both requests.
“After performing oral sex on Plaintiff, Weinstein masturbated in front of Plaintiff until he reached orgasm,” the filing notes, adding that Weinstein gave her “contact information for an executive producer with Project Runaway, a television program produced by Defendant, and offered to secure a role for Plaintiff on the program.” It is unclear if she did end up with a role on the fashion competition series.
“Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” said a spokesperson for the producer today in response to this latest claim. Reps for TWC or Bob Weinstein, who himself was accused of sexual harassment on October 17 by the showrunner on the now-cancelled This Mist, did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment about the complaint.
With projects and talent dropping in droves since the scandal surfaced earlier this month, TWC received a cash injection from Colony Capital on October 16. The Tom Barrack-run investment firm is said to be looking into buying up part or all of TWC — a proposition that likely just became even more toxic with this complaint.
“This is the casting couch at the extreme level,” Huett’s lead lawyer Jeff Herman told Deadline today on the matter, ahead of a planned press conference tomorrow in Los Angeles. “Whether it is a criminal case is not for me to say; we are saying that the company knew he was doing this to women,” the Florida-based attorney added of the multi-damages complaint. “What [Huett] wants to do is take on Hollywood, force a change of its attitude towards women.”
Herman also said he had not been contacted nor had contacted the LAPD on the matter. Like the NYPD and London Metro police, the LAPD is conducting an investigation into possible criminal charges against Weinstein that, if convicted, could see him behind bars for up to eight years in the Golden State. In the Empire State, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday subpoenaed TWC over potential civil rights violations in relation to Weinstein’s alleged behavior and settlements that have been paid out.
Adding a note of caution, Herman was the lawyer who represented Michael Egan in his quickly discredited and eventually dropped sexual abuse lawsuits against director Bryan Singer, executives Garth Ancier, producer Gary Wayne Goddard and former Disney exec David Neuman in 2014.
Back on this coast and looking at this latest matter, the statute of limitations in California on a charge of negligence, retention and supervision is two years. However, that clock can be reset to start whenever the injured party gains knowledge of such negligence and then restarts to one year from that point, which would put Huett within the statute of limitations, according to Herman.
“Plaintiff did not discover, and a reasonable and diligent investigation would not have disclosed, that prior to her incident Defendant was aware of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct involving Weinstein,” the complaint notes. “Plaintiff was unable to discover Defendant’s knowledge of Weinstein’s propensity to engage in sexual misconduct until the story of Weinstein’s pattern of sexual misconduct with young actresses broke in October 2017.”
Bob Weinstein and other TWC executives have claimed they had no knowledge of such behavior on Harvey Weinstein’s part. The latter Weinstein was terminated by the TWC board on October 8 and formally resigned after calling into to board meeting last week.
Attorney Patricia Glaser is representing Weinstein in coming to a settlement with the company, of which Harvey Weinstein owns a 23% stake.