Ashley Judd Can Move Forward With Defamation Lawsuit Against Harvey Weinstein, Judge Says

Court dismissed Judd’s sexual harassment claim

Last Updated: September 19, 2018 @ 2:11 PM

A California judge on Wednesday granted Harvey Weinstein’s request to dismiss actress Ashley Judd’s claims of sexual harassment, but Judd was empowered to continue her lawsuit against Weinstein, claiming defamation and blacklisting.

Judd’s sexual harassment claim was brought under a California state statute that prohibits sexual harassment by a defendant who is in a “business, service, or professional relationship” with the plaintiff. Weinstein argued that at the time of the alleged hotel room encounter, during which Judd said he sexually harassed her, the two of them were not in a business, service, or professional relationship.

The judge disagreed with Judd’s argument that her relationship with Weinstein at the time was “substantially similar” to the business or professional relationships expressed in the statute.

“For the foregoing reasons, [Weinstein’s] motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part,” U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez wrote in a court filing. “The court dismisses [Judd’s] second cause of action for sexual harassment in violation of California Civil Code § 51.9. [Judd] may proceed on her claims for defamation, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and violation of the [unfair competition law].”

Judd does have an opportunity to file an amended complaint for her sexual harassment claim. A lawyer for Judd said on Wednesday that they were happy with the court’s decision and will move forward with the lawsuit.

“We are very pleased that today the District Court held that Ashley Judd can proceed with her lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and continue her effort to vindicate the wrongs he committed against her among so many other women,” Judd’s lawyer Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. said in a statement. “We are also pleased that the court gave us an opportunity to amend our complaint and present additional facts related to one of Ms. Judd’s claims.  We will move forward immediately with discovery, including Mr. Weinstein’s deposition, and look forward to proving to a jury at trial that Mr. Weinstein defamed Ms. Judd, interfered with her ability to earn a living, and engaged in unlawful business practices.  The law should not tolerate this abuse of power to damage another’s career. “

A representative for Weinstein’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

In mid-July, Weinstein sought to have Judd’s case dismissed on the grounds that she waited too long to sue. Judd’s original complaint from April said she lost numerous lucrative acting opportunities after rebuking the mogul’s advances in the 1990s.

Among them, Judd says she lost out on a part in “Lord of the Rings” after Weinstein told director Peter Jackson that Judd was difficult to work with. Weinstein has denied doing so.

Judd was the first actress to be named on the record with her account of Weinstein’s widely alleged predation over the decades. Speaking with the New York Times, Judd described an incident in the ’90s where she said Weinstein asked to massage her in a hotel room and pressured her to watch him shower during a meeting.

She said she remembered thinking: “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”

The Times report said other accusers generally received between $80,000 and $150,000 in payouts each to make accusations go away. Judd was not one of the women who received a settlement, the report said.

Weinstein has consistently denied any instance of nonconsensual sex. In the subsequent time since the article’s publication, Judd has been a prominent face of the #MeToo and Time’s Up equity movements.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this reporting