The latest in a long line of accusations, lawsuits, denials, and countersuits, former supermodel Janice Dickinson has sued Bill Cosby for defamation. Dickinson claims Cosby's denials of her sexual assault allegations against him injured her reputation and caused her emotional distress.
The comedian/actor has been accused of sexual assault by over 40 women, but never charged criminally. Since the criminal statute of limitations has expired for Dickinson and many other alleged victims, civil lawsuits like this may be their only recourse.
Throwing the Book At Him
Dickinson originally came forward last November with allegations that Cosby drugged and raped her in Tahoe, California in 1982. Cosby's lawyer, Marty Singer, called the allegation "false and outlandish," according to the New York Daily News, adding "Janice Dickinson's story accusing Bill Cosby of rape is a lie."
Singer cited Dickinson's 2002 autobiography as proof, where she claimed she rebuffed Cosby's advances and he gave her the "dirtiest, meanest look in the world." Dickinson and her editor Judith Regan claim she fought to include the rape in the book, but the publisher refused.
Second Bite At the Apple
Dickinson's defamation claim is based on Singer's denials, and calling her a liar damaged her reputation, portrayed her in a false light, and inflicted emotional distress. And hers isn't the only one -- three other accusers have filed suits against Cosby in federal court in his home state of Massachusetts, alleging denials of their sexual assault claims amount to defamation.
This seems like a novel way to work around statutes of limitation. Because it's too late to sue Cosby for the original offense, Dickinson's suit is claiming a second offense in his denials. It does put the alleged rapist in a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario: say nothing and appear guilty of the first offense, or deny and create a second. So it will be interesting to see how courts handle suits like Dickinson's.
It's also worth noting that Cosby, to date, has not filed any defamation claims of his own against any of his accusers; possibly because an essential element in any defamation suit is proving the statement was false.