Probable Cosby – Does Cosby Have Any Validity to His Countersuit?
Wait… Whose Morals are Being Questioned?
As anyone familiar with television from the 1980’s knows, there were uncountable life lessons on which Dr. Cliff and Clair Huxtable pontificated. I am sure telling the truth was a value taught and retaught in the Huxtable household.
Truth as a life lesson sets an interesting stage to today’s top news stories featuring Bill Cosby. He is the target of criminal and civil actions and claims, ranging from sexual assault to defamation, by over three dozen women. In December, Cosby’s attorneys went on the offensive and filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts, suing seven women for defamation, who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct and assault. Cosby’s attorneys have called the women’s behavior “outrageous and morally repugnant”, according to the New York Times.
What is Vexatious Litigation?
Defamation is the act of communicating a false statement that harms the reputation of the person who is the target of the defamation. This offensive maneuver by Cosby and his attorneys is legally interesting in that it raises the issue of whether or not Bill Cosby has probable cause to bring such claims, and if he does not, what rights do these women have to counter this lawsuit.
In Connecticut, when one brings a civil lawsuit, he/she must have probable cause to bring the lawsuit. This would involve a review and analysis of the facts that support the claims outlined in the lawsuit. If the claims are baseless, and the lawsuit is dismissed in favor of the target of the lawsuit (the defendant), then the defendant would have a viable claim for “vexatious litigation.”
Vexatious litigation occurs when someone brings a baseless lawsuit for which there is not probable cause. In order to prove vexatious litigation, one must show that the underlying lawsuit lacked probable cause and one must prevail in the underlying lawsuit.
If vexatious litigation is found to be present, the plaintiff would be entitled to double damages. If it can be shown that the vexatious lawsuit was brought with malice, then in Connecticut the plaintiff would be entitled to treble damages. The intent here is to punish someone who brings a baseless lawsuit without probable cause; and to punish trebly someone who brings a lawsuit without probable cause, in a malicious manner to harass.
Could This Lead to More Damages?
In the case of Cosby and his attorneys, it will be interesting to follow his defamation lawsuit against the seven women who have claimed that he sexually harassed and/or assaulted them, as Massachusetts also recognizes vexatious litigation. If his claims are found to be without probable cause, and a court finds that these claims are being made simply to harass these women, he could be subject to a myriad of damages and sanctions.
If you are in a position where you believe a lawsuit has been brought against you without probable cause and you want to examine if you have a right to a claim of vexatious litigation, contact us. We can help.