Prince Andrew lost a major ruling in his litigation with Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts), who claims that the Duke of York sexually assaulted her as part of the sex trafficking crimes of the late Jeffrey Epstein. In his 46-page decision, Judge Lewis A Kaplan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York adopted an extremely narrow reading of the settlement and eschewed the defense arguments on threshold barriers to any lawsuit. Kaplan declared the “defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects.”
We discussed the novel arguments put forward by Prince Andrew, including a sweeping waiver of future claims by Giuffre in a settlement with Epstein. As we discussed earlier, the long-secret 2009 settlement contains a provision that would seem to favor Prince Andrew in seeking dismissal. In exchange for $500,000, Giuffre agreed not only to release Epstein from any liability but any “other defendants” associated with him. Giuffre agreed to “remise, release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge the said Second Parties and any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant (‘Other Potential Defendants’) from all, and all manner of, action and actions” that she may bring, whether “state or federal.”
That is pretty sweeping and this ruling could create major appellate issues. Prince Andrew argued that he is clearly a “potential defendant” as defined by the agreement. Indeed, given his close relationship to Epstein, he was likely one of the figures in mind when Epstein sought the broad language.
Kaplan worked mightily to avoid that conclusion. He insisted that it is not clear that the 2009 settlement benefits Prince Andrew. He asked “what is a ‘potential defendant’ as distinguished from a ‘defendant’?”
It is hard to see how Prince Andrew is not a potential defendant under this sweeping argument.
The court, however, ruled that it is not clear that this agreement can be enforced by anyone other than Epstein, who is now dead. According to this logic, any limits on Giuffre died with him. Yet, that means that Giuffre accepted half a million dollars on the promise not to sue any potential defendants but will now be able to do precisely that in federal court.