Bill Cosby's Confidential Settlement Files Not Protected, Court Rules
Seven women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault could soon have access to files regarding Cosby's confidential settlement with a prior accuser. A judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied Bill Cosby's motion to squash a subpoena for the case files from his suit and settlement with Andrea Constand.
Constand entered into a confidential settlement with Cosby in 2006, but that doesn't mean her case file can be withheld from discovery, Judge Anita Brody ruled.
The Constand Case File
Andrea Constand is only one of the 40-some women who have accused Cosby of rape, sexual assault, and other crimes, but she might be the woman who becomes his undoing. Constand sued Cosby in the early 2000's, years before his alleged crimes were widely publicized. That suit, in which Constand accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her, ended in an undisclosed, confidential settlement between the two.
Years later, Cosby's deposition from that case was released. In it, he admits to giving Quaaludes to women he plans to sleep with.
Soon after the deposition was publicized, Pennsylvania prosecutors reopened their criminal case against Cosby. He now faces felony sexual assault charges.
But that's not all of Cosby's legal troubles. The celebrity is currently being sued in federal court in Massachusetts by seven women who say they were also sexually assaulted. Those women, Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis and Angela Leslie, accuse Cosby of defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They're now seeking access to Constand's attorney's case file. In a subpoena sent to Constand's attorney, Dolores Troiani, they ask for:
Your entire case file for the case of Constand v. Cosby, U.S. District for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 2:05-cv-01099, excluding attorney-client communications and attorney work-product.
That file includes information gained when Constand's attorney investigated other sexual assault claims against the comedian.
Confidential No More
Cosby moved to quash the subpoena in Pennsylvania (hence, the jurisdiction in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, rather than Massachusetts.) Under the confidentiality agreement, Constand and her attorney agreed "not to disclose to anyone, via written or oral communication or by disclosing a document," any information about the events upon which the litigation was based, accusations made about Cosby by other persons, or any information learned during the litigation and criminal investigations.
In his motion to quash, Cosby argued that Constand's case file is confidential and cannot be disclosed without a compelling justification, which the women lacked. But Judge Brody was not convinced. While Constand and Troiani entered into a confidentiality agreement, that does not make Troiani's case file confidential. "There is no Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, or legal precedent, that requires Plaintiffs to provide a compelling justification for the disclosure in discovery of materials deemed confidential pursuant to a private settlement agreement," the court wrote.
Further, a confidentiality agreement between private parties "cannot block the disclosure of those materials to third parties in discovery," according to the court. Cosby's seven accusers "never agreed to the confidentiality" and "the public reaps no benefit by allowing settlement agreements to suppress the evidence," the court ruled.
That means Cosby's accusers could have some powerful new information in their hands, thanks to Constand's case file. But it doesn't mean that they'll have access to the details of Cosby and Constand's settlement. The plaintiffs said that they would not seek to enforce the subpoena against the settlement agreement itself.
- Women Suing Bill Cosby for Defamation Win Key Ruling (NBC News)
- Cosby Criminal Sexual Assault Case Proceeds in PA (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- 3rd Circuit: No Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege for Chevron (FindLaw's U.S. Third Circuit Blog)
- Sanctioned Firm Seeks to Stop Court From Questioning Clients (FindLaw's U.S. Third Circuit Blog)
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