Alleged rapist, Bill Cosby’s motions to strike are slapped down by California Appellate Court. Cosby loses all appellate issues attempting to strike items in civil litigation by purported rape victim.
Plaintiff, Janice Dickinson, publicly accused comedian and actor Bill Cosby of rape.
William H. Cosby, Jr., through his attorney, Martin Singer, publicly responded. First, Cosby sent demand letters to various media outlets. Those letters demanded that the media outlets not repeat Dickinson’s allegedly false accusation (“demand letter”). Those letters further threatened litigation if those media outlets published the allegations. Second, Cosby through Singer, issued a press release characterizing Dickinson’s rape accusation as a lie (“press release”).
Dickinson brought suit against Cosby for defamation and related causes of action. Cosby responded with a motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the “anti-SLAPP” statute). Then it appeared as if Singer might have issued the statements without first asking Cosby if the rape accusations were true. As a result, Dickinson filed a first amended complaint. The amended complaint added Singer as a defendant.
Cosby motioned to strike under California’s anti-SLAPP statutes. The trial court granted the motion to strike the first amended complaint because of the pending anti-SLAPP motion. Then the trial court granted the Anti-SLAPP motion as to the demand letter, and denied the Anti-SLAPP motion as to the press release.
Dickinson appealed the order granting the motion to strike her first amended complaint and the grant of the anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the demand letter. Cosby appealed the order denying his anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the press release.
The California Second District Appellate Court, Division Eight ruled in favor of Dickinson. The Appellate Court found that the trial court erred in striking Dickinson’s first amended complaint. That was because the amended complaint only added a new defendant Singer, who had not filed an anti-SLAPP motion. Additionally, the Appellate court further ruled in favor of Dickinson, finding that the trial court erred in granting Cosby’s anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the demand letter. Finally, the Appellate court further ruled in favor of Dickinson, finding that the trial court correctly denied the anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the press release.
Amending Complaint, adding party – Cosby & amici offer no dispositive authority to extend existing prohibitions to a new prohibition against adding a party
The Appellate Court wrote:
“The parties and amici have not cited, and independent research has not disclosed, any authority discussing the precise scenario at issue here – where the party challenging the plaintiff’s right to amend has not filed an anti-SLAPP motion and, in fact, is named as a new party to the litigation. As we now discuss, our review of the language in and policy behind the cases restricting amendment when an anti-SLAPP motion is pending do not support extending their holdings to cases where the plaintiff amends to add an additional defendant.”
Dickinson has made a facial claim of defamation & demonstrated likelihood of prevailing
The Appellate Court rejected Cosby’s argument that the demand letter and press release stated opinions when it wrote that they:
‘…state…repeatedly and unconditionally, that Dickinson’s rape allegations are “false and outlandish claims,” an “outrageous and defamatory lie,” a “defamatory fabrication,” and “false”; and that “the alleged rape never happened.”’
Lastly, the Appellate Court declined to strike Dickinson’s claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and false light writing:
“…that this false light claim is ‘surplusage’ because the complaint also contains a specific cause of action for libel. However, an anti-SLAPP motion is not the correct vehicle for asserting this position.”
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