Former model Janis Dickinson sued Bill Cosby for defamation because he publicly denied her sexual assault accusations. Presumably Ms. Dickinson claims Cosby’s public denial of her claims was an attack on her credibility. Love him or hate him, Cosby’s defense attorneys are making all the right moves.
Cosby hired attorneys from Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to defend the Dickinson lawsuit. Quinn Emmanuel is one of the biggest and most expensive law firms in the country.
In response to Ms. Dickinson’s lawsuit, Cosby’s lawyers filed an anti-S.L.A.P.P. (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion. This motion is an extremely powerful tool for defense attorneys. It is available to defendants who are sued for conduct related to exercising their constitutional rights under the First Amendment.
Filing an anti-S.L.A.P.P. motion has immediate and significant consequences. First, all discovery is immediately stayed. That means the plaintiff can’t force the defendant to attend a deposition, or to answer written questions under oath. Second, the plaintiff is required to produce enough evidence to prove s/he can meet every element of the claims against the defendant. If s/he fails to do so, the defendant will win and the case will be dismissed. Last, but not least, the plaintiff will be forced to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees and court costs for preparing the motion and attending the hearing.
In the Dickinson v. Cosby case, Dickinson’s lawyers convinced the trial court judge there was “good cause” to move ahead with Cosby’s deposition notwithstanding the automatic stay imposed by the anti-S.L.A.P.P. statute. Cosby’s lawyers appealed the trial court’s decision, and the court of appeal halted the deposition until the appeal could be resolved.
Ms. Dickinson should be more than a little concerned at this point. If Cosby wins the appeal and his anti-S.L.A.P.P. motion, her case will be dismissed and she will have to pay his attorney’s fees for the motion and the appeal. This could easily reach over $100,000 considering the caliber attorneys Cosby hired.
The importance of this appeal and the anti-S.L.A.P.P. motion to Cosby cannot be underestimated. A judgment in his favor in this case with a six-figure fee award will make future accusers think twice about going head to head with him in court.