Harvey Weinstein and his past companies were sued in federal court in a class action on Wednesday, accused of assault, infliction of emotional distress and violation of a federal RICO statute designed to take down criminal enterprises.
The lawsuit represents a single Jane Doe actress, but is expected to quickly include dozens of other women who the lawsuit says were hurt by Weinstein’s decades of sexual misconduct. It also includes his former company, Miramax, and The Weinstein Company, which has cut ties with him.
“Plaintiff, and hundreds of other female actors like her, found themselves with Weinstein … at offices, in hotel rooms, or at rooms at industry functions,” says the lawsuit, which heavily cites news accounts about Weinstein (full text below).
“Under the guise of meetings ostensibly to help further Class Members’ careers or hire them for roles, Weinstein isolated Plaintiff and the Class Members in an attempt to engage in unwanted sexual conduct that took many forms: flashing, groping, fondling, battering, sexually assault, attempted rape and/or completed rape,” it continued.
The suit pointedly states: “The proverbial ‘casting couch’ was Harvey Weinstein’s office of choice, a choice facilitated and condoned by TWC and Miramax.”
Representatives for Weinstein, TWC and Miramax did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment on the matter.
The lawsuit seeks to reclaim financial damages for actresses or others who sought to work in Weinstein’s movies, or were lured into sexual situations not of their choosing. It was brought by Cris Armenta, a Los Angeles-based attorney with experience representing women in Hollywood, and Hagens, Berman, Sobol, Shapiro a well-known class action firm.
“The goal is to create a national, cohesive vehicle so that the claims of the plaintiffs who are scattered across the country — if not the world — can be handled in a very expedient and efficient fashion,” Armenta told TheWrap. Using RICO, she said, “gives all woman across the country and the world the ability to bring their claims in as safe an environment we can create.”
The suit describes an unwanted sexual encounter that is similar to those of others who have accused Weinstein, including Ashley Judd, Asia Argento and Rose McGowan. Jane Doe did not disclose the date of her assault, but said she attended an audition at an office for Miramax Films.
Instead of being directed to the company office, she was shown to a private office of Weinstein’s in the same building, the filing said. After a pleasant reading of script pages from an untitled screenplay, Weinstein asked Doe to expose her breasts, saying the part demanded it, Doe said.
After she refused, the actress said Weinstein became belligerent and locked her out of the building in a pitch-black stairwell. She was terrified that he might come back to assault her, the suit said. Doe has not previously come forward and chose to remain anonymous, Armenta said.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial and seeks damages for personal injury, emotional distress and damage to the careers of Weinstein accusers. The Weinstein Company is currently exploring a sale at a dramatically reduced price, TheWrap previously reported. Baked into the sale price is $50 million in anticipated lawsuit settlement costs, an individual familiar with the sale terms told TheWrap.
Armenta said the class action, and any plaintiffs and attorneys who join it, would pursue settlements in bankruptcy court should the sale close and TWC enter Chapter 11 reorganization.
The attorneys are specifically seeking any actresses who may have been harmed during the audition process or solicited for work-related meetings with Weinstein.
The prolific producer and both of his companies are in violation of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), the suit says, which is a federal law that punishes organized crime.
The movie company, struggling through daily operations with president David Glasser and co-founder Bob Weinstein at the wheel, is already saddled with lawsuits over the scandal. The most prominent among them is from Harvey Weinstein himself.
In late October, Harvey Weinstein sued the company he founded for access to his personnel file and the contents of his email account, materials he and his attorneys say they need to defend him against allegations of rape, assault and other sexual misconduct.
TWC also faces a $5 million civil suit in Los Angeles Superior Court from actress Dominique Huettt, an accuser who says the company’s board of directors and Bob Weinstein specifically were “aware of Weinstein’s pattern of using his power to coerce and force young actresses to engage in sexual acts with him,” according to that filing.
Late Tuesday, another anonymous suit was filed against by a woman who claimed to have been raped by Weinstein. It was brought by noted victims-rights attorney Gloria Allred.
Read the full filing: