More women join defamation lawsuit against Cosby

NEW YORK • In the past 12 months, dozens of women who for years stayed silent or said little have come forward to accuse entertainer Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, only to find that it was too late to sue him on grounds directly related to the accusations, because of the statute of limitations. So in what they view as a last bid for justice, many of them are pursuing what they see as their only legal alternative: suing Cosby for defamation.

Last Friday, four more women joined a federal defamation lawsuit, which was brought by three women in Massachusetts. Cosby faces four defamation cases against him, including two in Massachusetts; 10 women in all are seeking redress on defamation claims.

The women claim they were branded liars after they came forward in the past year to accuse him of sexual assault, when Cosby's lawyers and other representatives dismissed their allegations of assault as fabrications. To prove defamation, experts said, the women will need to go a long way towards showing that the underlying alleged acts of assault - going as far back as the 1960s - occurred.

Cosby has denied all wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime. Beyond the consequences for him and the women, the cases open a conversation on the ground rules for how vehemently an attorney can speak out in a defence of a client who says he is wrongfully accused.

The cases against Cosby are based on statements made by several of his lawyers and representatives, including his former lawyer Martin Singer. In a statement last November, he said, "The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'More women join defamation lawsuit against Cosby'. Print Edition | Subscribe