A federal judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against Bill Cosby by Renita Hill, a cast member of a 1980s educational TV show “Picture Pages” that the comedian hosted.
The court dismissed the complaint with prejudice Thursday, saying, “Allowing plaintiff time to amend her complaint would be futile.”
“We disagree with and are disappointed with the judge’s ruling,” Hill’s lawyer George Kontos told TheWrap. “We intend to file an appeal. We are hopeful that the ruling will be overturned, and that Renita will have her day in court.”
Hill filed suit against Cosby in October, claiming he abused her from 1983 to 1987. Her defamation case stems from comments made by Cosby, his wife, Camille, and his former attorney, Martin Singer, in which they denied the allegations.
At issue in Hill’s lawsuit are a statement made by Singer that the accusations against Cosby were “becoming increasingly ridiculous”; a statement made by Cosby asserting that “a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos”; and a statement by Camille Cosby in which she said, in part, “There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers before stories are published or aired. An accusation is published, and immediately goes viral.”
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab shot down Hill’s claims of defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Schwab found that Martin’s statement amounted to “purely opinionated speech” that is “protected and not actionable as defamatory speech.”
The judge found that Cosby’s statement, which characterized the accusations against him as “innuendos” and encouraged people to “fact-check,” didn’t have “the general tendency to cause harm to anyone’s reputation and, thus, do not rise to the level of defamatory contents.”
With regard to the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, Schwab opined, “this Court does not find that the type of denials published in the three statements rise to the level of atrocious conduct necessary to preserve an IIED [intentional infliction of emotional distress} claim under Pennsylvania law.”
Over the past year, Cosby has been accused by dozens of women who say that he raped or sexually assaulted them. Many of the women said he drugged them beforehand. The comedian faces several lawsuits.
He has also been charged with felony sexual assault stemming from accusations made by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who alleges that Cosby assaulted her in 2004.
Constand had previously sued Cosby over the alleged attack, but later settled with him.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office decided not to pursue criminal charges against Cosby stemming from the claims of two of his accusers, one of whom alleged that Cosby had assaulted her at the Playboy mansion in 2008, when she was 18. The other accuser said that Cosby forced her to have intercourse with him after he took her to a Hollywood jazz club and bought her alcoholic beverages in 1965, when she was 17.
Singer, his former attorney, has denied the allegations in the past.