A judge said Wednesday he is inclined to allow Janice Dickinson’s defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby to go to trial, but not the ex-supermodel’s allegations against the comedian’s former attorney.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Randolph Hammock said he was reserving a final ruling while he examines some of the legal issues, including the viability of Dickinson’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The judge questioned Dickinson’s lawyers why they wanted to keep the allegation in the suit given that the main cause of action for defamation is likely to remain in his final ruling.
“You’ve got the heart of the case,” Hammock said.
Dickinson sued Cosby in May 2014, saying she had been re-victimized and her reputation had suffered because of denials by former Cosby attorney Martin Singer of her allegations that his then-client drugged and raped her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room more than 30 years ago. Singer was later added as a defendant.
“The only two people who truly know what happened are Dickinson and Cosby,” the judge said.
Hammock said in his tentative ruling that a jury should decide whether Cosby was liable to Dickinson for Singer’s statements, which the plaintiff believes made her appear she was a liar. He also said he was bound by a November decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal, in which a three-justice panel found that Dickinson’s case should go to trial.
However, Hammock said he did not believe there was clear and convincing evidence that Singer acted with malice toward Dickinson, who is a public figure and is held to that higher standard of proof.
The judge said he would issue a final ruling soon.
Singer said outside the courtroom that he hopes Hammock stays with his decision to removed him as a defendant.
“I never should have been sued,” Singer said.
Cosby’s lawyers declined to say whether they would appeal if Hammock finalizes his tentative ruling, though the judge said he expects there to be appeals. Cosby’s attorneys maintained in their original appeals that Judge Debre Weintraub erred in March 2016 when she denied their motion to dismiss Dickinson’s lawsuit in its entirety on free-speech grounds. Weintraub granted part of the motion, but allowed the thrust of Dickinson’s lawsuit to move forward against the 80-year-old comedian.
Dickinson appealed the part of the case that Weintraub dismissed, as well as the judge’s February 2016 ruling that eliminated Singer from the case the first time.
Dickinson’s lawyer, Jivaka Candappa, had asked Hammock to allow him to depose Singer on the issue of malice before the judge ruled on Singer’s dismissal motion. He said the latest arguments in court made it likely that Cosby will deny during trial that he authorized Singer to make the statements on his behalf and that Singer will maintain he cannot testify about conversations made between him and Cosby because of the attorney-client privilege.
The judge’s tentative ruling was to deny the request to depose Singer.
Cosby’s lawyer, Alan Greenberg, said outside the courtroom that tactics and arguments taken on the comedian’s behalf during Wednesday’s hearing are not necessarily the same that would be chosen if the case reaches trial.
Greenberg has said Dickinson’s rape allegations, which she made during media interviews in 2014, contradicted what she wrote in a book years earlier.
Dickinson, 63, is one of dozens of women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault. Hammock said she is probably “one of the most prominent and vocal of Cosby’s accusers.”
The comedian was not charged with a crime until December 2015, when he was charged in Pennsylvania with aggravated indecent assault. Prosecutors alleged he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, in January 2004 after plying her with drugs and wine. The first trial ended in a mistrial, but he was convicted of three counts of sexual assault in a retrial and his sentencing is scheduled for September.