There has been a wave of sexual harassment and sexual assault accusers who have come forward against Harvey Weinstein since the New York Times published its October 5 exposé on the Oscar-winning producer’s alleged decades-long predatory behavior. But a more than $5 million class action lawsuit filed today in federal court could turn that wave into a legal tsunami for Weinstein, The Weinstein Company and Miramax and others like lawyer David Boies, who the suit claims actively participated in what is being called the “Weinstein Sexual Enterprise.”
“The proverbial ‘casting couch’ was Harvey Weinstein’s office of choice, a choice facilitated and condoned by TWC and Miramax,” says the jury-seeking complaint from a Jane Doe, an unnamed actress who in the suit details a harrowing encounter with Weinstein several years ago. “Plaintiff, and hundreds of other female actors like her, found themselves with Weinstein on the casting couch at offices, in hotel rooms, or at rooms at industry functions,” says the eight-count filing (read it here).
“Under the guise of meetings ostensibly to help further Class Members’ careers or hire them for roles, Weinstein isolated Plaintiff and the Class Members in an attempt to engage in unwanted sexual conduct that took many forms: flashing, groping, fondling, battering, sexual assault, attempted rape and/or completed rape.”
While no specific date is cited for the sexual assault described by the Jane Doe, it allegedly occurred in the evening at a “building also occupied by Miramax,” the Harvey and Bob Weinstein company that was sold to Disney in 2005 as the brothers went on to form The Weinstein Company.
After the harassment scandal broke, TWC terminated Weinstein on October 8 and, still owning 23% of the company, he formally resigned October 17.
Class action certification is rarely an easy process and one often disliked by the courts for their unwieldy nature — tendencies today’s complaint clearly is trying to preempt.
“Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others,” the proposed class action asserts as it widens its scope beyond the producer. “Rather, over time, Weinstein enlisted the aid of other firms and individuals to facilitate and conceal his pattern of unwanted sexual conduct,” Jane Doe’s attorneys declare, noting various media reports on the much accused and increasingly sued Weinstein and TWC. “This coalition of firms and individuals became part of the growing ‘Weinstein Sexual Enterprise,’ a RICO enterprise,” they add, citing the law concerning group crimes that the feds employed against the mob among other entities.
“Each participant in the Weinstein Sexual Enterprise had a systematic linkage to each other participant through corporate ties, contractual relationships, financial ties, and the continuing coordination of activities,” the suit from Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP And Manhattan Beach’s The Armenta Law Firm lays out. “Through the Weinstein Sexual Enterprise, the Defendants and their co-conspirators functioned as a continuing unit with the purpose of furthering the illegal scheme and their common purposes,” it goes on to argue, with a kicker of “all of whom are responsible for Weinstein’s sexual offenses because Weinstein acted within the scope of his employment and/or these entities ratified or concealed Weinstein’s conduct.”
Having rebuffed allegations of “non-consensual sex” and denying “any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances” in the recent past, reps for Harvey Weinstein did not respond to a request for comment on today’s filing. TWC, and fellow defendant Miramax. Mention as part of the Weinstein cabal in the suit, Boies and Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, also did not respond to the matter American Media executive Dylan Howard.
In their silence, we have the allegations of this latest lawsuit, and they follow a pattern.
With many traits we’ve heard in previous allegations against the now-disgraced producer, the filing claims that after going through the motions of a private audition, Weinstein demanded sexual favors of the actress. When the Jane Doe refused to expose her breast for Weinstein, he supposedly flew into a rage, threatening that she would “never work in this town again” and eventually locked her in a “pitch-black stairwell.”
Abandoned by Weinstein, the suit claims it was only thanks to a “maintenance worker” hearing her screams that the actress, who is legally blind, escaped the stairwell.
In a play to establish behavior, Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento and Gwyneth Paltrow are cited in today’s potentially massive suit. With them and more than 70 other women having gone public with claims of inappropriate actions by Weinstein against them, the complaint notes it is seeking certification because “there are dozens, and likely hundreds, of proposed Class members.” The lawyers also note that “the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount or $5,000,000.00.”
With the crippled TWC facing an uncertain future, and Weinstein under investigation by the LAPD, NYPD, Beverly Hills police and the UK police, if this complaint is certified by a federal judge, this could be a potential TKO for the seemingly enabling defendants.
Or, Jane Doe’s attorneys said in a statement today: “The suit seeks retribution for class members’ loss of work opportunities and devastating damage to their careers, as well as damages for emotional distress, all of which can be tripled under RICO law.”
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.