Actresses Hit Harvey Weinstein and his Enablers with New Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging Sexual Assault Enterprise
NEW YORK – Today, a second wave of survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and witness tampering represented by attorneys from Hagens Berman filed a new class-action lawsuit. They will seek to represent hundreds of actresses who suffered sexual assault, false imprisonment, battery, rape and other heinous sexual acts Weinstein committed in collusion with his companies, boards of directors and other parties that engaged in a massive cover-up of his illegal actions.
The law firms have brought additional suits representing other survivors, and accuse Miramax, The Weinstein Company and other parties of facilitating Weinstein’s organized pattern of predatory behavior, equating to an enterprise that violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act, the same law brought against members of the Mafia for organized criminal behavior.
If you were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, find out more about the lawsuit. Hagens Berman’s attorneys achieved a nationwide sexual harassment settlement on behalf of 16,000 women and also tried the first ever sexual harassment case in Washington state.
In the lawsuit, filed June 1, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the plaintiffs state they were lured by Miramax or TWC employees and isolated with Weinstein in his office and hotel rooms to discuss involvement in a project. The suit highlights that at all times, Weinstein’s victims and those who met to discuss projects or audition for him “operated under duress and the threat of being blacklisted” by Weinstein and major producers at Miramax if they refused, or spoke up.
“Harvey Weinstein may have been put in handcuffs for his assault on two women, but we are working to see a day of justice for the hundreds of women who were exploited for Weinstein’s sexual gratification and silenced by this ring of conspirators,” said Elizabeth Fegan, a partner at Hagens Berman representing the proposed class.
The suit also brings additional focus to just how far Weinstein and his co-conspirators would go to silence victims. One of the suit’s plaintiffs, Melissa Thompson, was sexually assaulted by Weinstein while meeting with him to discuss a new marketing tool for his business. After news broke in October 2017 regarding Weinstein’s pattern of assault, she was referred to Benjamin Brafman and an attorney who then worked for his firm, Alex Spiro. Thompson was led to believe that Brafman and Spiro were representing victims against Weinstein. Deceptive tactics were used to entice her to turn over her visual and audio evidence of Weinstein’s conduct (which she did). Melissa did not learn that Brafman was actually then or would later be Weinstein’s lead criminal defense attorney until after turning over the video as evidence. The suit adds Brafman & Associates to the list of Law Firm Participants in the Weinstein Sexual Enterprise that violated RICO.
“As if it wasn’t enough that I was assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, Brafman & Associates led me to believe that they were going to help the group of women assaulted by him – when, in fact, they were Weinstein’s lead criminal defense attorneys,” said Plaintiff Melissa Thompson. “We must demand accountability -- not just for Harvey Weinstein, but for those who joined him in deceit and abuse of power.”
Thompson added: “We deserve to live in a world in which accountability for the abuse of power exists. Stand up and say something – because now is the time that enough is enough.”
The lawsuit brings various charges for violating the RICO Act, witness tampering, mail and wire fraud, assault, civil battery, negligent supervision and retention, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The second of the suit’s plaintiffs, Caitlin Dulany, met Weinstein at Miramax in 1996. He groomed Caitlin, earning her trust as a mentor before, later that same year, assaulting, threatening and falsely imprisoning her in her apartment. Then several months later, Weinstein sexually assaulted, battered, threatened and falsely imprisoned her in his Miramax hotel suite at the Cannes Film Festival.
Another plaintiff in the suit, Larissa Gomes, met with Weinstein to discuss work opportunities in Miramax films. The second time Larissa met with him, Weinstein imprisoned her in his hotel room and threatened, battered and assaulted her, causing her physical and emotional distress and injury to her property and livelihood.
“We applaud the brave survivors who have stepped forward to hold Harvey Weinstein and his loyalists accountable.” Fegan added. “Our work will not be done until Weinstein and his co-conspirators pay for the path of destruction they left in victims’ lives.”
The suit seeks retribution for class members’ loss of work opportunities and devastating damage to their careers, the damages for which can be tripled under RICO law. Plaintiffs also seek damages for the significant physical and emotional distress they endured then, and continue to endure now.
Recent news headlines have brought these heinous acts to the forefront, and many victims have bravely stepped forward to tell their stories. Hagens Berman continues the fight, working to help achieve justice for those who have been victim to sexual harassment, and affect systemic change throughout the industry. Tell us about your case.
# # #
About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with 11 offices across the country. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at https://www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.