Almost 40 women who say they were sexually assaulted or harassed by film producer Harvey Weinstein will take part in a settlement agreement struck in a bankruptcy court in Delaware. A judge confirmed the deal, allowing dozens of women to receive financial compensation from the $17m victims fund.
The first claims against the disgraced Hollywood mogul entered the court system almost four years ago. The deal was reached after several civil claims were ended against Weinstein.
Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath said in a hearing: “Eighty-three per cent of the victims have expressed very loudly that they want closure through acceptance of this plan,” according to The New York Times.
Nearly 40 women voted to accept the terms of the agreement last month. This means that their claims will be evaluated and compensated using a point-based system.
68-year-old Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison last March for third-degree rape and sexual assault, The Independent reported at the time.
Lawyer Genie Harrison, who represents five women in the case, said her clients were “so relieved," The New York Times writes.
“They wanted an outcome, not another promise of years of additional litigation, with them being the targets, and that’s the way cases like this are," Ms Harrison said.
The $17m victim's fund was set aside and then reduced after the Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy in 2018, following numerous accusations against Weinstein.
The settlement deal would pay out their full share of the fund to any victim who releases Weinstein from the possibility of future litigation. Anyone who wants to keep the opportunity to file a lawsuit in the future would receive 25 per cent of their share and the remaining 75 per cent of their share would go to insurance companies, The Times reports.
Those who agree to the settlement can still sure Weinstein, but they have to release the Weinstein Company from any liability as a result of further legal action. This includes releasing the company’s directors and executives, one of which is Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein’s brother and co-founder of the company.
Some of those who didn’t agree to the deal have said in court documents that the company and Bob Weinstein were aware of Harvey Weinstein’s actions but were negligent.
Several of those who voted against the deal are considering an appeal. Lawyer Thomas Giuffra said the victims should have been put into different categories depending on what they suffered. If not “somebody who’s been raped has the same vote as somebody who, Harvey Weinstein screamed in their face,” he told The Times.
Mr Giuffra’s client, Alexandra Canosa, was in the middle of a deposition in her case, which includes allegations of rape, when the bankruptcy ruling came and she was asked to make a fast decision on whether she wanted to join the settlement. Mr Giuffra called the timing of the question “frankly shocking”.
He said that Ms Canosa would not take part in the deal, citing its hazy nature. He said: “She doesn’t know what she’s getting and she won’t know until she goes through the claims process. How can you say you’ll accept something before you know what that something is?”
The bankruptcy plan for the Weinstein Company totals $35.2m and will be paid for by insurance companies. Apart from the $17m victim’s fund, $9.7m will go to covering half of the defence costs through April of 2019, and $8.4m will go to other creditors. According to the settlement, the Weinstein Company doesn’t accept liability for Weinstein’s actions.
A lawyer for Weinstein told The New York Times that suing him again would be a “fool’s errand, because his financial state is not great,” adding that the victim’s fund would be “the most sure bet to get some compensation, if they have a claim”. Weinstein claims that all his encounters were consensual. Almost 100 women have accused him of various kinds of sexual assault and harassment.
Weinstein is awaiting extradition in anticipation of another trial in Los Angeles where he stands charged with several counts of sexual crimes. He is also facing numerous other cases and lawsuits.
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